Despite injuries sustained in a May 12 house fire, Somervell County volunteer firefighter Tyler Eschbach has already returned to the department.
Eschbach, 20, suffered second degree and minor third degree burns on 10 percent of his body, including his hands, arms and legs. Due to his injuries, Eschbach was transported to Parkland Hospital in Dallas where he was released later that night.
“He suffered those burns because he was making sure all of his crew was out first,” Somervell Fire Chief Mark Crawford said in a previous interview. “That’s true heroism; a true quality of a fireman.”
Eschbach recently recalled the events of the house fire which led to his injuries.
“When we got (to the house) we went inside the building, me and my crew. We got about one-third of the way into the building and it was too hot, too smokey so we backed out,” he said.
After exiting the structure, the crew waited for a mutual aid crew from Hood County to ventilate the house, which creates a draft with an opening for the heat and smoke to be released, allowing firefighters to find and attack the fire.
After the ventilation was complete, Eschbach and his crew re-entered the home to continue to fight the fire.
“We got back in and (were) about half-way through the house, which was the kitchen,” he said. “You could tell something was not right. I had a real bad feeling and told my crew we were getting out of there.”
As Eschbach radioed a distress signal, a loud noise filled the room. When he called for his crew, there was no answer. Seconds after calling for the team, the room flashed over, igniting all the materials in the area at once. Eschbach knew he had to get out.
“I did a 360 in the room to try to find a way out and couldn’t see anything,” he said. “I saw the window as an opening and just jumped for it.”
Luckily for Eschbach, a crew was standing near the window and helped pull him to safety. The majority of his burns occurred on the lower portion of his legs because it was the area of his body exposed to the heat and flames the longest.
“I came out of a 12-inch window with all my gear on,” he said. “It was definitely a miracle.”
Eschbach is recovering well, wearing bandages only on his legs, which are still in the process of growing new skin. His hands no longer require bandages, however the new skin is still fragile, requiring him to be cautious and prevent further injury.
Originally it was estimated that Eschbach would be out of commission for eight weeks. However, he returned over two weeks ago, cutting his estimated recovery time in half. While back on duty, his responsibilities are still limited.
“All I can do is drive,” he said. “It is better than sitting at the house.”
Eschbach, who has been with the department since 2007, said despite the frightening experience his heart is still in the job and he will continue to serve the public through firefighting and emergency medical care.
“A near-death experience is a crazy thing,” he said. “I am not going to let it get me down.”
A piece of advice was also given by the firefighter for other individuals who may find themselves in similar situations.
“Stay calm and pray, that is what got me out of it,” he said. “If you don’t stay calm, you are going to miss something.”