NEW YORK, NY, August 21, 2019 /24-7PressRelease/ — Not all heroes wear capes, but most heroes risk their lives in some way or another for the life of others. This is the case of firefighters, rescuers who specialize in extinguishing fire and responding to tragedies such as forest fires or major accidents.
Luis Nevarez wanted to be a firefighter since he was young. As an immigrant raised in a poor neighborhood in California, he faced racism and several other obstacles growing up. However, he did not let any of this stop him, as he was surrounded by a strong work ethic, fostered by his father and his culture. When he was in high school, he met some firefighters at one of his first jobs and became interested in fire service. After high school, he attended East Los Angeles College, where he took his first fire technology class.
“I learned about a summer job with the California Department of Forestry in 1989. After that summer, I applied pretty much up and down the state,” Nevarez recalls.
Luis went to his first fire service interview at Amory County when his first daughter was just a newborn. He still remembers with detail this interview: how he travelled from Los Angeles in a bus and dressed up in a diner before the 20 minute interview. Back in LA, he worked both as a blueprint deliverer and as a bagger in a grocery store.
Luis was then successfully assigned to a fire station in Crescent City Highway 101, and his dream began to come true. After a summer at the station, he decided to go the Allan Hancock Fire Academy in Santa Maria. He then returned to the fire station as a seasonal firefighter, and was able to move his family (two daughters and a son) to Talleri City. He started to work at the Talleri Fire Department in January 1992.
However, ten years later, in January 2002, Luis Nevarez survived a traumatic accident. He made contact with a high voltage power line, to which he got stuck to until an engineer helped him disconnect from the wire. Luis had third degree burns and exit wounds, and had to go through surgery. To top it all, his left hand had to be amputated.
After this accident, Luis was able to get fitted for prosthetics, and seven months later he was already active and immersed in training and learning how to use the prosthetic. He was determined to get back to what he loved.
“I wanted to get back to where I was at physically before the accident, but I had to do that mentally first. I didn’t have a lot of therapy, and PTSD was not talked about then. People had to suck in their trauma. So I had to do the therapy myself. I worked together with my kids to make it happen,” Luis says.
When Luis returned to work, the department had hired new fire fighters who were going through the internal academy. Given his prosthetic, Luis had to join this new class of firefighters in the initial training, even though he had already been a firefighter for over 10 years.
“I was back to work within one year, with no restrictions or accommodations. I was then promoted to engineer, and when we opened a new fire station I was promoted to fire captain,” Luis remembers.
Back in his element and adapted to his new situation, Luis became a training captain, heavily involved in recruitment and teaching at the fire academy. In 2004, he attended Fresno Pacific University to get a university degree, which was a requirement in order to become chief.
Today, Luis Nevarez. is the first Latin American to be a Fire Chief in his department, and he is an inspiration and crucial support for those around him, both in his work life and in his personal life. He recalls his accident and says, “losing my hand after working so hard for a job like this, I wasn’t going to let it go so easily.” For him, mindset was crucial.
“I am the one that determines whether I can do the job or not. Don’t ever tell me that you can’t do something because there are people out there who have it worse than we do and they are still doing stuff. If you tell your mind you can’t do it then you can’t do it,” Luis states.
As a speaker, Luis is now able to share his story and inspire others to not give up. This past March, he spoke at the American Burn Association Conference, and he is looking forward to reaching out to kids who are on probation or risk to share his story. “I was that kid, I was that student,” he says. In addition, Luis wants to help those in the military or in similar labor intensive service, who have also lost their limbs or been exposed to accidents. For Luis, everything can be overcome with passion and drive.
Now Nevarez is hoping to raise awareness for firefighter burn survivors and fire safety. For more information and to watch the video, please click here.
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