Firefighters Share Near-Death Experience to Help Others

Flower Mound firefighters share harrowing story

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCDFW.com
    Capt. John Wright and firefighter Gus Trujillo are encouraging other firefighters to call for help when they need it.

    Two Flower Mound firefighters have launched a campaign to encourage other firefighters to ask for help right away when they're in trouble.

    Capt. John Wright and firefighter Gus Trujillo nearly died in a house fire on a windy night in June while searching the second floor of a burning home. Crews had reports that someone could still be inside.

    But suddenly, flames were shooting from a wall, and they couldn't find their way out through the thick, black smoke.

    "I've had a few close calls in my career but never thought, 'I'm dead. This is it,'" Wright said.

    Realizing the danger, he reached for his radio and called, "Mayday, mayday, mayday."

    A "mayday" call is a firefighter's last resort -- the ultimate call for help.

    Until that night, there had never been a "mayday" in the history of the Flower Mound Fire Department.

    "I said, second floor, left-hand search, we've got fire coming through the walls. We're lost," Wright said.

    As other firefighters rushed into the house to try to find them, Wright and Trujillo started looking for another way out.

    "The only thing I could hear is my heartbeat," Trujillo said. "I could hear the radio traffic 100 miles away, and you're in the zone, pretty much. I can't explain it."

    They eventually found two small windows in the room that now was hot as a furnace. Wright said they pounded on the windows in an attempt to get out.

    Trujillo finally broke through and climbed onto the roof. The smaller of the two men, he just barely fit through the narrow window.

    But his partner couldn't get out. Wright's airpack got caught on the window frame, and his shoulders caught the sides.

    "It had gotten to the point where I'd started to give up," he said. "I realized, 'I'm not going to get out. This is where I'm going to die.'"

    Wright said his mind raced with thoughts of his wife and 3-year-old son.

    But out on the roof, Trujillo wouldn't quit.

    Even though he'd lost his airpack, he kept reaching into the smoke, refusing to believe that he couldn't pull his partner out alive.

    "I just couldn't think that that wasn't going to happen," Trujillo said. "You set your mentality and depend on your faith; can't leave nobody behind."

    He gave one more pull, ripping Wright's body through the window frame.

    When the captain finally made it out onto the roof, the headband from the inside of his helmet was the only thing on his head. The heat from the fire melted the brackets on his helmet separating the band from the rest of the helmet. The outside was charred black and so was the hood on the back of his neck.

    Wright's clothing was so hot that Trujillo's handprint was burned into his wrist where he was grabbing him.

    Today, the handprint of the man who saved his life is still seared into his flesh.

    "I'd have died for sure if he hadn't done that," Wright said.

    The two firefighters are back at work after recovering from burns.

    Wright and Trujillo are sharing their story with other firefighters across the country through safety trainings and a website to let them know it's OK to ask for help right away.

    "I think everything happens for a reason," Trujillo said. "I think we were saved to help others see what we saw."

    Sometimes firefighters don't make a mayday call or try to rescue themselves until it's too late, they said.

    "It's not going to invalidate your 'man card,'"Wright said. "No one's going to make fun of you. If you need help, you need help."

    Trujillo will be honored with a Hero's of Denton County award this week for saving his captain.

    Meanwhile, the two firefighters are also reaching out to help the family that lost its home in that fire. The man who lived there was recently diagnosed with cancer. Wright and Trujillo are raising money for him through their website.

    More: Flower Mound Fire Department Mayday Training Files