Injured Little Orleans, MD, Firefighter Recalls Incident at Training Drill

June 14, 2024
"I was bent over when the blocks fell from the second floor...Then I felt my head and saw the blood and went down on my back," Orleans Firefighter Jimmy Vance said.

Editor's Note: The injury occurred after the formal training evolutions had concluded for the day, according to Orleans fire officers. 



Jun. 14—CUMBERLAND — Jimmy Vance, a volunteer with the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department, was in a daze after a concrete block wall collapsed onto his head and upper back during a May 4 training exercise.

"I was bent over when the blocks fell from the second floor," said Vance. "I actually stood up and I was looking around trying to figure out what happened. Then I felt my head and saw the blood and went down on my back."

An ambulance took Vance to UPMC Western Maryland where he was sent to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia, were he underwent two surgeries, including a spinal fusion and the addition of four metal rods in his back.

In addition to two cuts on his head, he broke several vertebrae.

"They did a two-hour surgery on my head," he said. "Then they woke me up and then did a seven-hour surgery on my back.

"On my neck, it was an explosion of the vertebra," Vance said, "from the top down below the shoulder blades. Every other one was broken."

Vance spent four days in the hospital. Today he is recovering while wearing a neck brace.

"They said I was hit with 1,200 pound of pressure," said Vance. "Two more millimeters over and I would have been paralyzed from the neck down."

Friends in their community have been holding benefits for the Vances.

A spaghetti dinner benefit will be held at the Orleans Fire Department on June 15 from 4-8 p.m. On June 25, the Oak Barrel Cafe will donate all sales from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. to the Vances, with Citgo matching the amount.

The incident happened on a Saturday afternoon when firefighters from Orleans, Hancock, Long Meadow, Flintstone, Clear Spring and Needmore, Pennsylvania, joined together in a controlled burn training exercise at the former Ritz Store in Buck Valley, Pennsylvania.

Vance said it was a gutted shell of a building.

"I was in the basement wrapping things up," he said. "We were getting ready to light another pile. As soon as I bent over to light it, about 12 feet above me the block wall collapsed. It was a split second.

"When it fell on me I dropped down to my right knee," Vance said. "I actually stood up. I put my hand on my head and saw all the blood and just went backwards onto my back, but I stayed conscious the whole time."

His fellow firefighters carried him to the ambulance.

"They couldn't get a medevac because of the weather conditions," Vance said.

Through it all, Vance remains in good spirits.

"With all the nuts and bolts in me, if I ever have to go to the airport I'll need to go three hours early," he joked.

Vance said he will likely go back to working at the fire station.

"They said, 'You might want to look for another profession.' But, I'll probably go back as a driver," he said.


(c)2024 the Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Md.)

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