It's usually not a good sign when a fire truck is parked in downtown Minneapolis.
But the sirens were silent and the hydrants off during the second annual fundraiser for the Firefighters for Healing Foundation at Seven Sushi Ultra Lounge.
Firefighter Jake LaFerriere started the organization in response to a very personal experience.
During the summer of 2010, LaFerriere's Station 11 was called to a house fire in an experience he compared to the movie "Backdraft." Things were relatively quiet as he and Capt. Dennis Mack looked for the source of smoke. Then an explosive wall of flames came out of nowhere, blowing the men in opposite directions.
"I jumped out of the third-floor window and luckily landed on the porch," said LaFerriere. For more than a month, he was in the burn unit, where he had extensive surgeries and had to relearn how to use his hands, which were severely burned.
Despite being aware of the on-the-job hazards, LaFerriere was surprised by his experience. "I never knew what it was like to be burned until I had to go through this," he said. "It's a beast -- you're stuck in this world of burns for up to two years."
After bonding with kids dealing with similar injuries, he was asked to tell his story to burn victims. Rallying his colleagues, including Mack, LaFerriere created the foundation, which is devoted to bringing awareness to burn victims, generating resources for kids and adults, funding medical treatments such as skin grafts and sending kids to a burn camp in Colorado.
Up next is an event in Hermosa Beach, Calif., and a chili cookoff in Minneapolis. If the jam-packed party at Seven was any indication, the foundation has really sparked a movement. And probably didn't violate any fire codes.
Sara Glassman • 612-673-7177