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Injured fire chief dispatches department to help him

An attempt to fill the gas tank on a lawn mower left Hopewell Fire Chief Jerry Wilson severely burned, his wife, Carolyn, said Tuesday.

The incident, which happened shortly after lunch last Wednesday, occurred when the gas can’s nozzle split, causing gas to spill onto the mower.

“You hear about things like that happening, but never would you think it would happen here,” Carolyn said. “The mower wasn’t hot. Jerry had let it cool, but apparently it was hot enough to ignite. It got him on his left leg pretty bad.”

Jerry “stopped, dropped and rolled,” and was able to shed the overalls he was wearing to put out the flames. He made his way from the back of his yard to house and called to dispatch his own department for assistance.

He was transported to Andalusia Regional Hospital and shortly thereafter to the University of South Alabama hospital’s burn center in Mobile. Tuesday, he underwent the first of two skin grafts to repair the damage to his leg.

“It’s the area between his knee and his foot,” Carolyn said. “The rest of his leg didn’t require surgery.”

As of that afternoon, she said Jerry was “doing well” and resting comfortably. Doctors plan to perform the second surgery in approximately one week.

The family expressed their thanks to the many calls of concern and words of prayer. The family is unable to accept flowers while Jerry remains a patient at USA’s burn center; instead, well wishers are asked to make donations to USA’s Burn Center, Attention: A. Duffy, 2451 Fillingin Street, Mobile, AL, 36617.

“I mean how often do you hear of a chief dispatching his own department?” Carolyn asked. “I guess God wasn’t ready for him yet. He looks like he’s going to be just fine. It’s just going to take us a little while to get there.”