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Moment firefighter falls through burning roof caught on video

By JohnThomas Didymus     Mar 31, 2015 in World
Fresno - The Fresno Fire Department in California released to local media a graphic video recorded on a cell phone showing the moment that a veteran firefighter fell through the roof of a burning building while working with his colleagues to put out the fire.
The fire department said that Capt. Pete Dern, 49, is in critical condition at the hospital after the accident. He suffered burns in about 65 percent of his body.
[Graphic video: Viewer discretion is strongly advised.]
He underwent first surgery on Sunday, according to the local news statioin ABC30.com.
The fire department said it requested local news stations to publish the video to help highlight the dangers that firefighters face daily. According to Sooji Lee, the neighbor who caught the frightful incident on his cell phone camera, "Just that way they [the public] know the kind of position that these firefighters are put in, and that they do brave things every single day."
Firefighters were called to a house and garage in Cortland and Del Mar avenues in Central Fresno where a fire broke out around 1:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. ET) Sunday.
The Fresno Bee reports that Dern, described as a "seasoned" firefighter, had climbed on the roof to provide ventilation, a procedure the Huffington Post described as a "standard technique in fighting this type of fire," when a weak portion of the roof gave way under his feet.
Firefighters and a crowd of bystanders gave a cry of shock when he disappeared through the roof, engulfed in a ball of red flames.
Lee, who recorded the incident on camera, told ABC30.com, "I almost had an anxiety attack because we didn't know what was going to happen. I honestly didn't think he was going to make it."
Lee’s footage shows the frightening moment that the firefighter suddenly fell through the roof as he walked amid thick plumes of smoke. A ball of fire shot up from the building and engulfed him as he disappeared from sight.
His colleagues, assisted by bystanders, acted immediately. They tore down the door of the garage and rescued the victim in a matter of minutes.
Moment just before Capt. Pete Dern falls through burning roof into flames
Moment just before Capt. Pete Dern falls through burning roof into flames
Sooji Lee
Fresno Fire Department Capt. Robert VanTassel told reporters that despite the fact that his colleagues were able to rescue him in about three minutes, he suffered third-degree burns in 40 percent of his body.
He was rushed to the Community Regional Medical Center. Several of his colleagues turned up at the hospital to show their support.
Fire Battalion Chief Todd Tuggle told the Fresno Bee, "Sounds from the public were traumatizing in and of themselves. We could hear people screaming, we could hear people running in to help. I have to believe it was traumatic for the citizens to watch, too."
A post to the Facebook page of the Fresno City Fighters - Local 753, said Dern suffered second- and third-degree burns in over 65 percent of his body. The Facebook post went on to praise the 25-year veteran, saying he is a highly respected fire captain who trained many of the current firefighters at the Department.
Fresno Fire Chief Kerri Donis said, "I believe his burns were on his hands, around his face. He did have his mask intact. There were some other burns on his back, around his legs, so they're pretty much in all areas of his body."
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Dr. William Dominic, director at the Burn Center at the Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, said, "He had burns that went all the way around his extremity. We'll be taking care of Mr. Dern for a long time."
Dominic told NBC News that Dern was receiving painkillers to make him "comfortable but not totally comatose."
According to the Fresno Bee, Dominic said Dern also suffered severe inhalation injuries.
The Huffington Post reports that a fundraiser has been set up to assist Dern and his family. Members of the public who wish to assist the veteran firefighter may follow this link.
Darn, who is married with a daughter, was an Army helicopter pilot.
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