MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A Mobile firefighter who fell from a roof while fighting a 3-alarm fire Saturday night remains in the hospital. However, he has a smile on his face despite his injuries.
Captain Joe O’Connor has been serving Mobile Fire Rescue for the past 12 years. He said it was a childhood dream of his to become a firefighter and a dream that he loves living out.
On Saturday, Mobile Fire Rescue responded to a 3-alarm fire at Jaguars Cleaners and Laundromat. O’Connor said he fell from the roof while the team was switching from a hand line attack to ladder pipes.
“For what happened, I think I am really blessed and lucky,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor was transported from the scene to USA hospital where he remains with six broken ribs and multiple fractures to his spine.
“I’ve got some healing to do, ya know, all things considered,” O’Connor said. “I’m doing well, but I’m also not a spring chicken anymore.”
At his bed side is his wife, Jill Vega.
Vega said she was alerted by a knock on her door Saturday night. Officials with the fire department then drove her to the hospital to meet O’Connor.
“We had a really rough night,” Vega said. “But once I found out that he was alive you know we could get through anything as long as he was alive. But there was several minutes where we weren’t quite sure and that was terrifying.”
Monday, he remains in stable condition while waiting for a final read on an MRI report that would determine if he needs surgery.
O’Connor told WKRG he is grateful for the outpouring of support that he has received from the fire department and community during this time.
But O’Connor said this support does not surprise him as he has seen it before. Seven years ago, O’Connor had a brain tumor, after getting it removed, he was out of commission from the department for seven months.
But the department treated him as a family member giving endless support.
“It’s kind of mind blowing, making me tear up a little bit,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said that kind of support is what gets these first responders through the job. He said it’s not a glamorous job or life, but it is a calling.
“To do this job, you have to have support from your family, ya know it’s hard on them and your gone at nights. You miss certain things, and you get used to doing Christmas on Christmas eve and the day after Christmas,” O’Connor said.
But as of now, both O’Connor and Vega are grateful that they get to spend another day together.
“Like we have been given a second chance, and like we’re not going to take a day for granted,” Vega said. “Not that I think we did but even more so.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.