- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2012

A fire department in Prince George’s County will donate $10,000 to a charity that helped two of its firefighters after they were severely burned fighting a fire.

Firefighters Ethan Sorrell and Kevin O'Toole from the Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department each spent time in the burn unit at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in the District earlier this year after they were injured fighting a house fire that was ruled an arson. Their recovery at the hospital was made easier thanks to the D.C. Firefighters Burn Foundation, volunteer fire Chief Randy Kuenzli said.

“Both were from out of town and had families coming in that night,” Chief Kuenzli said, recalling the night of the Feb. 24 fire. “No questions asked, [the foundation] got the call and they immediately made the arrangements for hotel rooms and everything else. … They took a tremendous weight off my shoulders to take care of the families like that.”

Seven firefighters were injured in the blaze, but Mr. Sorrell and Mr. O'Toole suffered the most serious injuries.
The burn foundation paid for hotel rooms for both men’s families while they remained in the hospital — Mr. O'Toole for two months — and provided meals and company for the families and firefighters, burn foundation President Jason Woods said.

“Because of our guys’ injuries, we took money from the foundation,” Chief Kuenzli said. “I felt obligated to put some back in for the next guys.”

Bladensburg’s Ladies Auxiliary raised $4,200 from a purse bingo event in August and added $800 from its own funds to make the donation an even $5,000. The volunteer department agreed to match the donation, and provided an additional $5,000 from its own coffers. The money will be presented to members of the D.C. Firefighters Burn Foundation on Tuesday evening.

The foundation expects to use about $140,000 this year collected through donations such as those made by the Bladensburg department to pay for similar care of area firefighters undergoing treatment for burns, as well as to support the Washington Hospital Center’s burn unit, burn camps and other activities it runs, Mr. Woods said.

That a local fire department is giving back after seeing the foundation in action provides validation for the work it does.

“Thankfully a lot of firefighters haven’t had to use our services,” Mr. Woods said. “It just goes to show that they saw what we do and who we are. It kind of says that they have a little faith in us.”

Since the Feb. 24 fire, Mr. Sorrell completed rehabilitation and returned to his position with the volunteer department. In July, he was offered a career position in North Carolina and has joined a fire department there, Chief Kuenzli said. He still comes back to visit Bladensburg and volunteers with the department when he is able.

Mr. O'Toole returned to his family’s home on Long Island, N.Y., and continues to undergo rehabilitation, the chief said.