By Samantha Joseph
STUART -- Area firefighters are rallying around their injured colleague, Jahwann McIntyre, and have set up a fund on his behalf.
Mr. McIntyre suffered third-degree burns on more than 50 percent of his body while fighting a blaze at 1151 S.W. Bluewater Way, Stuart, just after 2 a.m. on Dec. 27.
He is at the Jackson Memorial Burn Unit in Miami, where he had a nine-hour skin-graft surgery on his hand last week.
"He's doing a little better, and breathing on his own now," said Martin County Fire Rescue Lt. John Davidson, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2959.
"The doctors are really optimistic that he's going to regain full use of his hands."
Firefighters from the region have teamed up to raise funds for Mr. McIntyre and have already contributed about $10,000 for their wounded colleague.
Residents can also contribute by making a donation to a fund established in Mr. McIntyre's name. They can write Mr. McIntyre's name in the check's memo line and send donations to: Martin County Fire Fighters, P.O. Box 469, Palm City, FL 34990.
Firefighters in Miami-Dade and other counties have given cash and gas cards to help make it easier for visitors to travel to the burn center.
Mr. McIntyre, 22, has a long road ahead to recovery. He faces multiple surgeries, at least another month in hospital, a long stint in physical therapy and perhaps a year of recuperation.
He was one of three firefighters injured fighting the early-morning blaze, in which he sustained the gravest injuries. Rescuers treated one firefighter for minor injuries, and took a second to hospital for additional care.
When the crew arrived at the site, they saw children's toys, garbage containers, dishes in the sink and several other signs that indicated the house was occupied. One team worked on extinguishing the flames, while another went into the house to rescue residents.
"We had reason to believe at 2:30 in the morning that there where children and other people in the home," said Bureau Chief Bill Schobel. "They were doing what they were trained to do, which is save lives."
Martin County Fire Rescue officials said crews started searching for victims amid heavy smoke conditions, which rapidly escalated and put the team in harm's way.
"They made their way upstairs, where they encountered a lot of heat," Mr. Schobel said. "That's where the injury occurred."
About 500 people have visited Mr. McIntyre at the hospital, and his colleagues have it arranged so he has regular visitors.
"Some fighters (who've suffered burns) said the biggest thing he's going to need is support," Lt. Davidson said. "He's got 300 brothers and sisters here to help him get through this, whatever it takes. They don't call this the brotherhood for nothing."
Residents have also stepped in to show their concern for the young firefighter.
"The support from the public has been overwhelming. If I go out people are asking about him and wanting to let him know they're praying for him," Lt. Davidson said.