President of Dallas Fire Fighter Association Says Training Likely Saved Lives

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While the apartment building explosion at the Highland Hills apartments is still under investigation, three firefighters are just starting their journey to recovery.

Those who know firsthand the dangers of the job say there's no question it was training and quick thinking that saved lives, including their own.

Jim McDade said he had the same sinking feeling when he heard the mayday call go across the radio.

“There’s a moment of panic among all of us,” said McDade. “It’s chilling, absolutely chilling to hear that audio of that panic, and knowing full well that the person making that call is seriously injured.”

As a 16-year veteran and president of the Dallas Fire Fighters Association, he understands a firefighter only makes a mayday call under certain circumstances.

“Mayday is what we would say on the radio if we’re lost, or trapped, or out of air or in a really bad situation. We need somebody to come get us, is what it means,” he said.

He also knew the firefighters from Station 25 – the ones at the Highland Hills apartments during Wednesday’s explosion - had extensive training and experience that continued even after the academy.

“This station is a very busy station,” he said. “So, on top of all the training, they actually are putting to use all of their training, because they’re out there doing it.”

McDade says all firefighters receive something called self-rescue training. If possible, a firefighter does whatever they can to get out of a dangerous situation while others are on the way.

“It’s everything from learning how to breach through a wall, or get out a window or whatever is needed,” said McDade. “But you call it and attempt to get yourself out while people are coming to get you at the same time.”

Ultimately, he said the Dallas family of firefighters consider themselves fortunate.

“It’s going to be a long road. These guys have a long way to go to get healed up and to get back where they can be working again,” he said. “It’s an absolute miracle that we didn’t lose somebody.”

A resident at the complex told NBC 5 on Thursday that he'd reported smelling gas on Tuesday to maintenance and that some of his neighbors had been complaining to the complex about the smell for several days.

Four civilians were injured during the blast. They were transported to the hospital for treatment and released late Wednesday night. Three of the four firefighters injured remain at Parkland hospital.

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