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Injured firefighter from Little Orleans, MD, recalls training incident

Injured firefighter from Little Orleans, MD, recalls training incident
Injured firefighter from Little Orleans, MD, recalls training incident

Editor’s note: According to Orleans firefighters, the injury occurred after official training sessions had ended for the day.

June 14—CUMBERLAND — Jimmy Vance, a volunteer with the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department, was dazed after a concrete wall fell on his head and upper back during a drill May 4.

“I was hunched over when the blocks fell from the second story,” Vance said. “I actually got up and looked around to find out what had happened. Then I felt my head, saw the blood and fell on my back.”

An ambulance took Vance to UPMC Western Maryland, from where he was sent to JW Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia, where he underwent two surgeries, including a spinal fusion and the insertion of four metal rods in his back.

In addition to two cuts on his head, he suffered several fractures of his vertebrae.

“They did a two-hour operation on my head,” he said. “Then they woke me up and then did a seven-hour operation on my back.”

“There was a visible fracture of the vertebrae in my neck,” Vance said, “from the top to the shoulder blades. Every other vertebra was broken.”

Vance spent four days in the hospital and is now recovering with a neck brace.

“They said I was subjected to 1,200 pounds of pressure,” Vance said. “Another two millimeters and I would have been paralyzed from the neck down.”

Friends in their community have held fundraisers for the Vances.

On June 15th, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., the Orleans Fire Department will host a benefit spaghetti dinner. On June 25th, the Oak Barrel Café will donate all proceeds from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. to the Vances, and Citgo will match the amount.

The incident occurred on a Saturday afternoon when firefighters from Orleans, Hancock, Long Meadow, Flintstone, Clear Spring and Needmore, Pennsylvania, gathered to conduct a controlled burn exercise at the former Ritz store in Buck Valley, Pennsylvania.

Vance said it was the burned-out shell of a building.

“I was in the basement getting everything ready,” he said. “We were about to light another pile. As I bent down to light it, the wall about 12 feet above me collapsed. It only took a split second.”

“When it fell on me, I fell on my right knee,” Vance said. “I actually got up. I put my hand on my head and saw all the blood and just fell backwards on my back, but I remained conscious the whole time.”

His firefighter colleagues carried him to the ambulance.

“Due to weather conditions, a rescue helicopter was not possible,” Vance said.

Despite all this, Vance remains optimistic.

“If I ever have to go to the airport, with all the tools in me, I’ll have to leave three hours early,” he joked.

Vance said he will likely return to work at the fire station.

“They said, ‘Maybe you should look for another job.’ But I’ll probably go back as a driver,” he said.

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(c)2024 Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Maryland)

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