MCCALLA, Ala. (WIAT) — The McCalla Area Fire District responded to the home of a fellow firefighter from Vestavia Hills early Wednesday morning. Now, Vestavia Hills Firefighter Jonathan Vickery and his family are picking up the pieces after the fire took everything from them but the clothes on their backs.
“It really started to impact us that we were fighting a fire for one of our brothers,” Lt. Jay Zilinskas of the McCalla Fire District said. “He is a brother. It kind of makes us reflect that this could truly happen to any of us.”
The incident occurred during Fire Prevention Month – a time when departments across the nation spend time reminding families that having an escape plan, routine maintenance of smoke detectors and extinguishers is key for survival.
A reminder during this time that preparation for a fire emergency is key.
“There is no one that is immune from fire. It could happen to anybody, and you never know when it’s coming so you always have to be prepared,” Zilinskas said.
Both McCalla and Vestavia Hills fire crews have a message for the public about the situation.
“Him, his wife and three kids are okay,” Vestavia Hills Battalion Chief Scott Ferrell said. “That’s what we’re most thankful for.”
Vickery has spent his life protecting and rescuing others from situations like his.
“He did a fantastic job as a matter of fact when we arrived on scene, he was helping us extinguish the fire himself,” Zilinskas said. “He is incredible, an incredible guy.”
The material things can be replaced – so a fellow firefighter has launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to help.
“They live a third of their lives together for 24 hours at a time so it’s a totally different family, but it’s still family and we treat each other the same,” Ferrell said.
Because at the end of the day no matter who you are or where you live – it could happen to you.
“It’s just so important that even us as firefighters go home at the end of the day and we do the same thing that we preach and that’s testing our fire alarms and smoke detectors and following those guidelines,” Zilinskas said.
Fire officials want to remind you that this is the time of year to replace batteries in your smoke detectors and to test them monthly. Be sure to keep space heaters away from anything that could catch fire. Do not use stoves or gas appliances for as an alternative for indoor heating. Be sure to have a fire escape plan for you and your family memorized with two ways to get out of your residence.
The cause of Wednesday’s fire is still under investigation.