By Denise DuBois
It’s been 119 days since a work accident changed David Davis’s life. But Davis won’t let one bad day define his whole career. Davis has been a firefighter for 20 years. The Phenix City resident is a captain with the Opelika Fire Department. On March 15, a training drill on Anderson Road went awry.
“We were concluding a day of training in the form of live fire rescue and suppression drills from a donated home when a catastrophic incident occurred while I was inside the burning structure. The fire inside the structure flashed over, causing me to become trapped, and the temperature became so extreme that my firefighting protective gear failed, and I became burned on 30 percent of my body with second and third degree burns,” Davis said.
He was airlifted to University of Alabama at Birmingham where he spent a month and a half undergoing surgeries and observation. Davis has since had three surgeries and expects one more. The latest was for another round of skin grafts. He also had six of his finger tips amputated.
“My recovery has taken a lot longer than I wanted; I wanted to return to cut the next day if only my body was able,” Davis said. “There has been a significant amount of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), so yes, my attitude has been affected. But as far as a fear of fire, I knew the consequences when I joined, and if need be, I know what could happen again. I just got on the bad side of the law of probability, is the way I figure it. I just refuse to let one bad day define my career. So I must push past any PTSD issues and conquer whatever fear there is.”
Davis said he was a child when he knew he wanted to be a firefighter. “When the fire department came to visit us in school as I was a child growing up in Columbus, Ga., I thought it was the coolest thing ever watching them pull up in their big shiny fire engine, riding on the back, flexing their muscles,” he said.
But in addition to that kid’s intrigue, he knows that serving a community means serving in something greater than himself.
“I wanted to do work that mattered. The thing I enjoy most is helping people in the worst of their times – always hoping that we as firemen can make their hardest day somewhat easier using the skills we acquired over a career of training and professional development,” he said.
After 119 days, Davis is still rehabilitating and getting in his gym time knowing that he will never grow his fingertips back, but hoping that he will one day return to serve.
“At this time it is unsure if I will be able to fight fire on the front line again, although that is my goal. But if not, I hope that my department will be able to accommodate me in maybe a training capacity until I am eligible for retirement. I only know one thing for certain: I do not want to be sitting at home, calling it quits, drawing some disability check and feeling sorry for myself,” he said. “The doctor told me on my last visit that the only reason I survived the accident was because I was in good physical condition. So I have worked religiously at making my body stronger again so that I may serve the public as a firefighter once again.”
As for his brothers and sisters in uniform, Davis asks that the community continue to show support for them.
“I am just your regular, friendly neighborhood fireman – no better or worse than any other firefighter that serves. I just happened to have a very bad day that will forever stay with me in the form of scars. I only ask your readers to please smile and wave at my fellow brothers and sisters. It helps remind them why they have their skin in the game. They will smile back, I promise, as they remember it is for the citizens that they have sworn to serve.”
A GoFundMe account was set up for Davis and has reached nearly all of its $10,000 goal. To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/injuried-opelika-firefighter-fund.
*Note- The word “injuried” is intentionally spelled as it appears gofundme Internet address.