“I actually experienced – and somehow lived through – Backdraft,” said second generation Minneapolis firefighter Jake LaFerriere.
It was a beautiful summer day eight years ago when Jake and his colleagues at Rescue 9 went out on a call to an apartment building that was on fire.
“There was a lot of smoke, but no fire. For some reason, I threw my mask on, which ended up saving my life. My Captain and I walked up the stairs and continued to just see and feel smoke. I hit a wall and the fire shot out, when it mixed with oxygen, it exploded Backdraft style. I was blown 11 feet in one direction, my captain in the other.”
Jake was unconscious, on fire and barely cognizant when we woke up. He jumped from the 3rd floor and landed on a porch overhang that saved his life.
“I didn’t realize how bad I was until I got to the ambulance and my skin was falling off my hands. I realized nobody was looking at me and everyone was looking away.”
The then 35-year old suffered 3rd and 4th degree burns on his hands, 2nd degree burns to his face, back, and arms. His jacket was melted, everything came off.
“If it wasn’t for that mask, no way do I survive the fire. The pain was bad. Morphine didn’t work. Nothing worked.”
Throughout the next year, Jake underwent 12 surgeries and finally started to be able to function.
“They wanted to chop my hands off at first, I didn’t know how I would get through it. But two young children were brought into the burn unit and seeing a 3 and 5 year old suffer, gave me strength and I preserved.”
That experience sparked Jake to create his own Foundation, Firefighters For Healing, to support youth/pediatric burn victims.
Through this work, he met Lionel and ended up at Adpative.
“This is such an incredible atmosphere. Meeting the fellas and sharing our story is similar to the firehouse, but here you can dig into this intimate space that nobody else can imagine. I’ve never felt this kind of therapy and connection in my life; nothing has worked as well as this and we are only a few days in. The loving community of these brothers are therapeutic and beautiful.”