LIMA — With a plastic firefighter’s helmet perched on top of his head, 6-year-old Landyn Douglas watched the man who saved his life display his gear.
“How fast can you put that on?” Landyn asked.
Firefighter Matt Hammons smirked as his firefighting companions of the Lima Fire Department ribbed him — egging the 26-year-old on to show off a little. Like any good firefighter, he lined up his boots and got to work.
The questions from Landyn continued as Hammons slipped on his coat and later adjusted his breathing mask.
“Fire can’t get through that? Did you use that mask on me?”
His interest was more than just general curiosity, however, as the young boy seemed to be piecing together what happened just three months earlier, when he suffered third degree burns and Hammons entered a burning house to ensure the boy survived.
“When I was in trouble,” Landyn explained to his relatives. “I couldn’t breathe.”
On Nov. 12, Lima firefighters were dispatched at 4:53 a.m. to respond to a report of a residential fire at 625 W. Elm St. Upon arrival, they found the first floor engulfed in flames.
Landyn was trapped on the second floor.
Hammons entered the building, and when he heard Landyn’s cries, he rushed upstairs alone to find the boy nearby. Scooping him up, the two moved to a side room to escape the immediate danger. Hammons radioed his situation, and a medic crew positioned themselves outside of a stairwell window to ready for a hand-off, which was performed soon after.
Hammons said most of his actions were instinctual reactions — the results of training.
“They teach how to remain calm,” Hammons said. “My biggest concerns was (Landyn) and knowing how to get him out.”
While dealing with third degree burns over 50 percent of his body, Landyn was rushed to Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center and then to Mercy Health-St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo. He was later flown via jet to Shriner’s Hospital in Cincinnati.
Landyn’s grandmother, Hellen Douglas, said Landyn was in the intensive care unit for three weeks after the fire, and he received a bevy of skin grafts and surgeries. He was in the hospital for close to three months.
During that time, Hammons and the crew of Fire Engine 1 visited Landyn while he was in the hospital to give the boy of the gift of a blanket embroidered with “Lima Fire Department.”
“They’re always reaching out to see if he’s doing okay. It’s been great.” Hellen Douglas said.
Thursday was the first day Landyn was out of the hospital, but he still has a way to go. The 6-year-old currently wears a suit of compression clothing and a plastic mask that helps ensure his skin grafts heal well. He is scheduled for repeated checkups every few weeks.
His first night home
Before Landyn headed home after the long drive Thursday night, however, he had to visit the Lima Fire Department to see the men and women who did so much to help.
He entered the Central Station a little hesitantly at first with family members close by, but when Hammons returned from a call, he quickly warmed up, eventually getting a tour of the building, snapping a picture with firefighters and looking at some of the equipment used to help him, including an ambulance and fire engine.
Firefighters had set out cake and ice cream for the occasion and gave Landyn another gift. This time it was a small plastic fire truck, which he gave a quick roll after firefighters helped tear it out its box.
“It’s good to see him, to see him talking.” Hammons said. “He’s a very cheerful boy. It always makes me smile when he talks to me.”
Throughout the night, Landyn stayed close to Hammons. Many of the other firefighters looked on.
While the duo were at the center of the attention, Deputy Chief Andy Heffner and Landyn’s uncle, 18-year-old Logan Steuder, had a conversation about what’s it’s like being a firefighter.
“This is why everybody in the department does what they do,” Heffner said to the young man as the night’s events played out.
Steuder said he’s always been around firefighters as he grew up, but after Landyn’s incident his respect has grown tremendously.
“They put themselves in harm’s way,” Steuder said. “Knowing that it could him his life, that split-second life-and-death decision, that saved my nephew’s life.”
Steuder said he’s currently set to go into construction, but he’s not sure if that will be the case in the future as firefighting has had such a strong influence in recent months.
“I’m definitely thinking about (going into firefighting),” Steuder said. “And if I do, I’ll try my to best to get in with Lima.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.