PROVIDENCE, R.I.––Following a massive fire and the hospitalization of several firefighters, the Strength for Service Corporation sent 360 copies of Strength for Service to God and Community to all the firefighters in the capitol city.
The books were provided by St. Louis-based World Wide Technology
Twenty-five firefighters were injured, and four were hospitalized with pulmonary issues and cyanide poisoning, following March 31 fires at two triple-deck homes.
“The rest of the injuries range from burns to injuries sustained when people fell to simply physical exhaustion, not because of heat, but because they are working non-stop at a very, very high level,” said Paul Doughty, president of Providence Firefighters Union.
Captain on life support
Captain Joe Fontaine was the most critically injured. After arriving at the Roger Williams Emergency Room for a leg injury caused by a charged water line, his oxygen levels dropped from cyanide poisoning, He stopped breathing.
When his vital signs crashed, the 32-year fire-fighting veteran was put into a medically induced coma and intubated. He was then rushed on life support to the Rhode Island Hospital Trauma Center.
Fontaine’s wife and three adult sons anxiously awaited in the trauma center praying for his critical condition to improve.
“Joe and I got on the job together, so we’ve been together for a long time and he’s tough as nails,” said Chief Scott Mello. “For him to get in this condition — it’s really tough to see.”
Fighting with empty air packs
“Hydrogen cyanide affects your central nervous system and you get disoriented,” said Rhode Island Fire Marshal John Chartier. “You get confused. That’s how we lose firefighters in buildings.” Several firefighters kept working the Eaton Street fire even after they knew their air packs were empty.
“When their air packs ran out, at times they were forced to maintain their position to make sure that the fire didn’t spread because it was that dire of a situation,” said Doughty. “It could have turned into a conflagration very, very easily. So, they did operate after their air packs had run out of air.”
The Providence City Council applauded the bravery of the firefighters.
“My thoughts are with Captain Joseph Fontaine, who is currently in critical condition from the fire on Eaton Street,” said Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan. “I am very concerned for the health and well-being of our dedicated firefighters who were injured while battling the inferno. They fought two dangerous fires under extraordinary conditions. They need to be commended for a job well done.”
“I want to thank all of our fire personnel for risking their lives to protect the people of my ward and their properties,” said Councilman John Igliozzi. “I understand that some firefighters are now hospitalized due to their efforts; I send my prayers to them and to their families, and I wish them the speediest of recoveries.”
The Strength for Service Corporation found a way to honor Captain Fontaine and all the firefighters in Providence.