A firefighter from West Stanislaus Fire is expected to be hospitalized for at least a month after suffering burns while battling the Caldor Fire over the weekend.
Richard Gerety III of Patterson was on a strike team with three other firefighters from West Stanislaus that was assigned to the northeast side of the fire in El Dorado County, according to West Stanislaus Fire Chief Jeff Gregory. The fire had consumed 177,260-acres as of Monday morning, according to Cal Fire.
The strike team had been there for 10 days on Saturday afternoon when Gerety fell in a burned area, suffering third-degree burns on his arms and hands and second-degree burns to his legs, said his wife, Jennifer Gerety. The burns account for about 20 percent of his body.
“He’s in very good spirits but in a lot of pain,” Jennifer Gerety said by phone Monday from her husband’s bedside in the burn unit at UC Davis Medical Center. “He’s back to making his usual dad jokes.”
She said Richard Gerety will undergo skin grafting surgery Wednesday and recovery is expected to take up to a month.
“I will be here until he leaves,” Jennifer Gerety said.
She said family and friends are helping to care for their 2-year-old son and the Firefighters Burn Institute has reached out to offer support as well.
Gerety, who comes from a family of firefighters, began volunteering for West Stanislaus Fire in 2017 and has served on two wildfire strike teams. He works as a mechanic for John Deere.
Gerety is the third firefighter to be injured while battling the Caldor Fire, which broke out Aug. 14. The fire has destroyed 471 homes and as of Monday morning promoted mandatory evacuations for 22,000 residents in South Lake Tahoe. It is 14% contained.