THIBODAUX, La. — When Bobby Rodrigue, 35, decided to leave his career as a registered nurse, his sister Tomi says he found a new calling.
“He still had that passion for protecting and saving people and so that’s whenever he kind of found the fire department,” Rodrigue said.
Rodrigue joined the St. John Volunteer Fire Department in Lafourche Parish, just outside of Thibodaux, about a year ago.
“If he gets a call, he’s out there,” Rodrigue said.
That’s what happened Christmas Day.
“We had just finished doing presents,” Rodrigue said.
Bobby Rodrigue immediately responded to a call about smoke coming from a home, mostly likely from behind a fireplace. Fire Chief Jeremy Babin says Rodrigue and another fireman went to re-check the attic.
“Two firemen had went upstairs and that’s when the back draft occurred,” Babin said.
Babin says protective gear saved Rodrigue’s life. His hands, which were exposed were severely burned.
“That fire had probably been smoldering for a while and so the perfect storm happened and when Bobby opened the door and it got that oxygen, immediately just exploded,” Rodrigue said.
Both firefighters were taken to Thibodaux Regional. Rodrigue was eventually flown to University Hospital in New Orleans for surgery.
“Thankfully he saved all of his fingers,” Rodrigue said.
Rodrigue says doctors used skin from her brother’s thigh to repair his hands. He had a second surgery Tuesday morning.
“I think the hardest thing for him, and would be any man, is he can’t do anything for himself,” Rodrigue said.
Babin has never experienced a back draft, but says it’s one of many dangers firefighters face every day, but face them anyway.
“Whether the chief, assistant chief, captains, lieutenants, firefighters, we’re all here just to serve the community,” Babin said.
The other firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation and released from the hospital. As Rodrigue recovers, his family has started a GoFundMe account to help with medical expenses.
A cause of the fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshal’s office.
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