By Ann Rowland
In the mid-1990’s, Brook Linman was a 20 year old facing drug, theft and firearms charges stemming from an incident where she sat in a car during a shootout. At the time, Linman refused to turn on her then-boyfriend, a known gang member. Rather than going to jail, she was sent to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Fire Camp which teaches inmates how to fight fires.
After her release in 2000, Brooke went to school and applied and was accepted to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. In October 2007, a wildfire (known as the Harris fire) broke out near the California-Mexico border and Brooke was part of a crew sent in to rescue a man and his 15 year old son who were trapped by the fire. Flames overtook their fire engine. A helicopter dropping water on the surrounding flames found and rescued them. The father was killed and his 15 year old son, Brook and three other firefighters were badly burned.
Brooke was in a medically induced coma for two weeks, allowing her body to heal from the burns to her face, ears, right shoulder and lungs. She also badly injured her left knee. She was released from the hospital three weeks after the fire, her face still covered with ointment and bandages and walking with a pronounced limp. She underwent two and a half years of physical therapy and another year with a personal trainer in the hope of returning to her job as a firefighter. As with many victims of trauma, Brooke suffered from PTSD following the events of that day.
Now, almost two decades after being sent to Fire Camp for her crimes, California Governor Jerry Brown granted Brooke Linman a pardon for those crimes on December 24, 2013. She called the pardon “a wonderful Christmas gift” and spoke with ABC 10-San Diego about the pardon and the Fire Camp program that helped her turn her life around.
“I was a very young naïve girl with low self-esteem,” Linman said. “It (fire camp) helped me see there was a lot more I could do with my life. It gave me focus.”
As for the pardon, Linman says “It’s more symbolic for me. It was something that I wanted to close that chapter with.” Linman hopes that in sharing her story she can show others that there is a way out of a bad situation. “Just like I say with the fire; I would take all those burns again if I could save another person from a fire.”
A statement released from the Governor’s office said, “Pardons are not granted unless they are earned.” The pardon restores Linman’s civil rights including the right to vote and serve on a jury.
Linman was medically retired from the CDF in 2010 and has recently been accepted to San Diego State University where she hopes to study to become a therapist dealing with victims of PTSD and burn survivors.
Additional sources: “Out of the Ashes: Burn Survivor, Firefighter Brooke Linman” http://www.burninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Beacon_Fall-Winter2010.pdf
“Firefighter cited for heroism on Brown’s list of Christmas pardons” http://articles.latimes.com/2013/dec/24/local/la-me-ff-brown-pardons-20131225