Randy Wilson and Charlie Burroughs stood on the spot recently where the explosion happened. They talked of the firefighter life. They expressed thanks to be alive and living in a place where others have their back.
They joked of the future T-shirts: “We had a blast in Comer.”
It was a scene worth a photo — particularly given the light-hearted contrast to the grim event on that patch of dirt off Gholston Street Oct. 18. On that day, a routine fire call turned violent in a hurry. And both guys found themselves flat on their backs, burned, temporarily deaf and blind, rubber and oil caking their faces and soaking their eyes. Burroughs’ right hand was nearly ripped off at the wrist.
The two men had spent decades responding to people in need.
Now the roles had been flipped.
“It was just instant blindness and deafness,” recalled Burroughs. “They really didn’t know who I was. I was covered in black oil and rubber. So, they couldn’t tell who I was. They thought I was the driver of the truck.”
On that October day on Hwy. 72 in Comer, the brakes on a chicken litter truck were on fire. Wilson and Burroughs were among the volunteer firemen who responded. After the fire was extinguished on Hwy. 72, the truck was pulled over onto Gholston Street in front of the Windstream office where Wilson works. About 30 minutes after the call, the two firefighters checked the truck for heat. That’s when a back tire on the truck blew up. People in nearby buildings said they could feel the shake of the compression blast.
“We were doing just a routine check for heat,” said Burroughs. “I stuck my hand in there checking for heat. Right as I did that, it blew. There wasn’t no warning, no nothing. It just went. No warning at all.”
Volunteer firemen Charlie Burroughs (L) and Randy Wilson (R) share a laugh last week at the spot where they were injured in a tire explosion Oct. 18. Both said they are thankful for all the support they received after the accident. Zach Mitcham/staff
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