Often times when Fire Lt. Scott Dalrymple – who was critically injured in a house fire last July – is on the job in his new role as a Fire Prevention Specialist, he routinely runs into residents or homeowners who think he is being too strict about problem conditions in their homes; that a fire could never happen to them and they will never get hurt.
It’s during those times that he sticks out his left hand, which is still shows the serious burns and doesn’t yet have full movement.
“I just stick out my left hand and show them,” he said. “I tell them I had gloves on and this happened to me. If they’re in bed in their bed clothes, think what would happen to them. It can happen to anyone. No one thinks their house will catch on fire. Everyone thinks it’s not going to be them. I’m walking proof it can happen. Why not do the right thing and make everyone safe? When we enforce the code, it’s all for safety. It’s not revenge. It’s something to make sure we don’t expose anyone to danger or injury. They always say it can’t happen to them or their property. I tell them, ‘You know what? It happened to me.’”
Dalrymple, 49, returned to the Fire Department after seven months out of work with eight surgeries and dozens upon dozens of therapy appointments, not to mention counseling to make sure he isn’t suffering trauma after being injured so badly. His injuries came in a large fire on July 13, 2018, a day that was like any other day in his 25-year firefighting career, he said.
“After 25 years, you don’t think much about it,” he said. “You watch TV and go on calls and usually nothing happens. That day was a regular Friday afternoon like most other afternoons. We went to the fire and we were working it.
“Then this happened,” he said, holding out his left hand.
What happened was he and another firefighter went through the front door to try to knock the fire down from the front. The fire had started in the basement and it was burning very hot there. Inside the front door was a heating register, and Dalrymple said the heat moved through that from the basement. Just as they walked in, the entire front hallway flashed over, which means that everything – including the firefighters – immediately burned very hot.
“I remember going in and getting to the top of the stairs,” he said. “I remember it becoming very uncomfortably hot and we turned and got out. I remember turning and being in outrageous pain. From that time to the time I got outside I don’t remember to this day. I have no recollection, which is probably a good thing.”
Dalrymple, according to witnesses at the fire, seemed to explode out the front door and was completely engulfed in flames. He collapsed on the front lawn, they said, and was tended to by other firefighters, then quickly rushed from the scene in an ambulance.
He suffered severe burns down to the bone of his hands, with his left hand still only at about 50 percent motion. He had a burn to his abdomen and the outside of his ears.
“Some days I didn’t think I would make it back,” he said. “At the hospital they they talked a lot about not being sure if I would ever get 100 percent use of my hands again. They weren’t sure if my hands were going to work again. At that time, I told them to take my hands off – remove them. The pain was so bad and I didn’t think they would ever work again so I didn’t see any use in keeping them. I’m glad they didn’t listen to me, because here I am back at work and using my hands.”
He said he has seen the photos of his equipment, and he is convinced it is a miracle he’s alive.
“After seeing the pictures of my turnout gear, I think it’s pretty incredible that I’m alive, and as bad as my injuries are, it’s amazing I’m not much, much worse,” he said.
He credited the support of his family and friends for keeping him going during his long rehabilitation, as well as the firefighters from Everett Fire.
The house that caught fire last July when Dalrymple was injured was a house whose owner had battled with the City on safety issues. There were numerous violations, and despite some improvements, the house still had 19 people living in three units – a dangerous overcrowding situation.
Now, such injuries and accidents are the exact things Dalrymple tries to head off in his new job as a Fire Prevention inspector. Going throughout the city during his work hours, he is a walking reminder that the rules are crafted for a reason – and following them could save the life or limb of another.
“There were 19 people living in that house, and if it had happened at 2 a.m., we might have a dozen people lost,” he said. “One would be too many. No one thinks it will ever happen, but it does.”