By Ann Rowland
Joe Yeakley, 52, is a 14 year veteran of the Lindale (Texas) Volunteer Fire Department and the safety instructions that he has given to some of his fellow firefighters throughout the years may have helped save their lives while battling a house fire last week. Unfortunately, Joe was not able to get himself to safety before a roof collapsed and pinned him in the blaze. He is currently in Parkland Hospital in Dallas in critical condition with burns to his face and hands.
Yeakley was leading his crew of three other firefighters into a burning home and was exactly where he wanted to be….at the front end of the hose team. “He always was the one; he wanted to be on that line. He wanted to be there to make sure that safety factor was there,” Lindale Fire Department Lieutenant Aaron Munn told KLTV-Tyler.
After entering the burning home through the garage, they heard a creaking noise and within seconds the roof was collapsing on them. Two firefighters were able to get into a door jam where they were able to avoid being trapped by the collapsing roof. Yeakley was unable to make it there and was trapped under burning wood. Firefighters quickly pulled him out and transported him to the hospital.
“He’s not one of these that’s going to take a lot of very dangerous chances. The fact this happened to him is very shocking,” Munn said. “He’s got a total of about 30 years experience. He’s an instructor and very protective. There’s quite a few guys that look to him as a father figure. He’s a good guy.”
Jeremy Layton is one of Yeakley’s co-workers and has looked at Yeakley as a role model since he joined the department eight years ago. “Joe was all around just a great firefighter, a great person and just a great person to hang around,” Layton told KETK-East Texas. “Joe was one of those guys when I joined he grabbed me by the hand and helped me through everything.”
Smith County Fire Marshal Oren Hale told KLTV that this is what firefighters do. “They took a calculated risk, knowing what those risks were. They know the dangers up front. They’re willing to accept those dangers and risk their lives,” Hale says.
The Lindale Volunteer Fire Department is asking for prayers for Joe and his family. As Layton put it, “Joe is hurt so everybody’s hurt.”
A Dixie volunteer firefighter was also injured in the fire. He was treated and released with minor burns to his arms. The homeowner was not injured.