BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - One of the youngest Hotshot Firefighter's in Kern County, 19-year-old, Ethan Sanders has been released from the hospital surviving an incident that almost took his life.
While battling the Water Fire south of the Grapevine with his Rio Bravo Hotshot Crew 7, Sander's mom, Misty Sanders, said he was hit by a rock that knocked him unconscious and sent him 30 feet down the mountain
"I didn't even feel the rock, it came out of nowhere," said Sanders.
He sustained severe injuries including six fractured ribs, a little blood on his lungs and seven staples on his head. When Sanders was taken to the hospital, Misty said, he remembered her and her husband's name and phone numbers, but there was still some trauma.
The family said, they saw first hand how much of a team and family firefighters are.
More than 80 firefighters have visited Sanders in the hospital since the incident, said Misty. The whole family said they are grateful for all the support from the department and the community.
"All the battalion chiefs, the president of Kern County Fire Department, everyone came to check up on Ethan," said his dad, Shea Sanders.
"Thank you for all my brothers and sisters for rescuing me and pulling me to safety. Firefighting is a team environment. This is why I chose to be a firefighter. I like how everyone came together in this tragic event. Thank you to everyone that came to visit me. Kern County Fire Department has been a great career path. They're my family," said Sanders.
Misty said, Sanders is ready to get back to work. "This isn't going to stop him. He was joking about, I'll go back and lick stamps if I have to. I'll do whatever I gotta do," said Misty.
"He's my hero," said Misty about her son, a Hotshot, who she said is always ready to respond to a call to help save lives.
With the help of the safety officers at the scene, Sanders was able to get to the hospital in ten minutes.
Brian Gaddis, chief, and safety officer for the Kern County Fire Department said," As a safety officer it's our responsibility to look at the hazards and the risks involved in all these different incidents. Mitigating and minimizing the risks that we have for our firefighters, to make sure they are safe."
"In that situation, it's wild land fire, and there are acceptable risks that we have, and we train really hard to make sure we minimize those risks," said Gaddis.
Safety officers are always on scene as an extra pair of eyes, to make sure that the men and women fighting the fire are as safe as possible. The safety officer's job doesn't stop there, said Gaddis, they not only help out injured firefighters on the spot, but they are a support figure for that firefighter through the whole process.
"We all go out to fight the fire as safely as we can, but we accept that fact, that there is a risk out there," said Gaddis.