The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester
Nov. 29—Steve DesRuisseaux, the Manchester fire captain severely burned 24 days ago while rescuing residents in a apartment building fire, returned home Monday afternoon to the embrace of his family and the good wishes of dozens of his brother firefighters.
DesRuissueaux turned emotional at times when he addressed about four dozen firefighters who crowded outside his Reed Street home on the West Side.
“Your support and your generosity have been overwhelming to me,” he said after getting out of the front seat of the passenger car, which arrived with police motorcycle and fire-engine escort. “Everything you’ve done for my family, I cannot repay it.”
DesRuisseaux suffered second- and third-degree burns to more than one-third of his body when a flashover took place just after he guided a resident to a ladder propped against a second-story porch railing.
He underwent at least three surgeries at Massachusetts General Hospital and has healed well enough that he was able to bypass the normal route to a rehabilitation center and go straight home, wrote Mary Parah, who launched a GoFundMe campaign for DesRuisseaux.
“It’s an incredible day for this fire department,” said Manchester Fire Chief Andre Parent. “It was a horrific situation that he arrived at. He did an incredible job, not just Steve, but his whole crew.”
DesRuisseaux was wearing street clothes as he stood on the lawn of his family home. Other than bandages on his left hand and left ear he looked fine. And as he embraced fellow firefighters, strong back slaps sounded through the crisp air.
“I can’t wait to get back on the line with all you guys,” he said as his voice started to break. “I just love what I do. I love all you guys.”
He broke down while acknowledging the devotion of his wife, Colleen, and their embrace was met with another round of applause.
On Nov. 6, DesRuisseaux and fellow firefighters rescued six people, including a baby, from a burning 2 1/2-story building at 10 Dutton St. in the Janesville neighborhood of Manchester. The fire claimed the life of Kathryn Conn, 59, who died of smoke inhalation. Authorities have said the fire was an accident and likely caused by an electrical issue.
DesRuisseaux had just led a third-floor resident to a ladder propped against a rear second-floor porch railing when a flashover started burning everything in sight.
As he started to slide down the ladder on his stomach, his breathing apparatus snagged on the ladder. A fellow firefighter kicked out the ladder to get DesRuisseaux away from the flames.
A firefighter who tried to free DesRuisseaux, Lt. Scott Brassard, was on the ladder when it fell and suffered an ankle sprain. He returned to work last week.
Manchester firefighters were at DesRuisseaux’s hospital bedside nearly constantly, and Boston firefighters met Colleen DesRuissesaux even before her husband arrived at Mass. General, Parent said.
Manchester and Boston firefighters attended the hockey games of his son, Jack, to cheer him on.
DesRuisseaux has had to undergo at least three surgeries — skin grafts where thin layers of his healthy skin are removed and placed over the burned skin, doubling the amount of wounds on his body, according to Parah’s account.
“The pain this guy is in, and literally doesn’t complain is mind boggling. He doesn’t make a peep as they do things to him,” she wrote two weeks ago.
Parent said that whenever DesRuisseaux is ready to return to work, the chief will find a light-duty job for him. Eventually, Parent hopes DesRuisseaux will return to active duty.
“I’m going to hold his spot open for him on the line,” Parent said.
The online fundraiser sought $20,000, but has raised $56,200 as of Monday afternoon.
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