N.H. captain seriously burned during rescue at fatal blaze to return to duty

Steve DesRuisseaux will be on light duty in Manchester after recovering from second- and third-degree burns over more than one-third of his body


Paul Feely
The New Hampshire Union Leader

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Steve DesRuisseaux, the Manchester fire captain severely burned last November while rescuing residents in a fatal apartment building fire, will return to duty June 27, seven months after suffering second- and third-degree burns over more than a third of his body.

DesRuisseaux became engulfed in flames during a flashover while rescuing a man from the second floor of the building, Manchester Fire Battalion Chief Dave Fleury said.

"I had a great support team, from my surgeons at Mass General to occupational and physical therapists, to my family. I've been able to concentrate on healing, both physically and mentally, and I'm cleared to meet the requirements of the job. ... I'm very lucky," said Captain Steve DesRuisseaux. (Photo/Manchester FD Instagram)

Fleury said at the time that DesRuisseaux's actions were "nothing short of heroic."

"It's been a long road back," DesRuisseaux said. "I had a great support team, from my surgeons at Mass General to occupational and physical therapists, to my family. I've been able to concentrate on healing, both physically and mentally, and I'm cleared to meet the requirements of the job.

"I'm very lucky," he said.

This week Manchester Fire Chief Andre Parent called DesRuisseaux's recovery "truly remarkable."

"We can't wait to have him back," Parent said. "I'm not sure anyone thought it would happen this quickly."

Parent confirmed DesRuisseaux will return to duty the week of June 27, after he was cleared by his surgeons. He'll be scheduled for "light duty" at first, Parent said, "but we hope to have him hopping on fire trucks soon."

Light duty consists mainly of administrative work. DesRuisseaux will work out of Manchester Fire Headquarters downtown.

"Basically, everything but responding to calls," DesRuisseaux said. "They want me to ease back into the job."

In an emotional post on Facebook, DesRuisseaux's wife, Colleen, said she has never seen "such unwavering determination and sheer tenacity" in a person to reach a goal, and it "humbles me."

"Sitting here tonight, I was going through some of the pictures I have taken over the last 7 months, and the emotional rollercoaster we have all been on," Colleen wrote. "We both would not be where we are today without the village that we have had supporting us. You all know who you are. The texts, calls, visits, prayers, meals, rides, cards, gifts, drinks, humor, friendship, empathy, love and caring that we have gotten from you all will never be forgotten.

"Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for being there for our family; for Steve. I would not wish this journey on anyone, but if anyone has to go through this, I hope they are lucky enough to have the village that we have."


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Kathryn Conn, 59, of Manchester died of smoke inhalation in the Nov. 6 fire in a six-unit multi-family building at 10 Dutton St. Her body was found on a second-floor back porch after the fire was put out.

Firefighters rescued six people, including a baby, officials said. Two girls, two men and a woman were rescued from the third floor, and a man was helped down from the second floor by ladder.

DesRuisseaux's breathing device got caught on a ladder, trapping him after he became engulfed in flames.

Lt. Scott Brassard climbed the ladder to try to free DesRuisseaux. Firefighter Joshua Charpentier noticed heavy fire coming from the second floor and decided to knock the ladder away from the building to prevent further injury to DesRuisseaux.

Brassard sprained his ankle as a result of the 10- to 15-foot fall, but continued to battle the fire and sought medical treatment afterward.

Video showed a firefighter clutching a young baby tightly, climbing down a ladder to safety. The same firefighter then climbed back up the ladder to rescue more people trapped inside.

The fire likely was electrical in nature, the state fire marshal's office said.


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Video: Injured N.H. captain returns home after weeks in hospital

Manchester Captain Steve DesRuisseaux suffered second- and third-degree burns to more than one-third of his body in a flashover

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