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Firefighters help colleague around the house

Costa Mesa resident and captain in the Santa Fe Springs Fire Department broke his back in an accident last month.

May 30, 2007|By Heidi Schultheis

Clad in T-shirts and jeans, more than 20 firefighters on Tuesday were nailing down reddish-brown molding, installing a new kitchen faucet and unrolling fresh grass in the frontyard.

Despite all the progress on his Costa Mesa home, this isn't what owner Brent Hayward had in mind.

Hayward, a 44-year-old captain in the Santa Fe Springs Fire Department, started remodeling his home two years ago and had planned to do much of the work himself.

Those plans changed on April 21, the first day of an Ensenada cruise and bachelor party for a fellow firefighter. That evening, Hayward dove headfirst into a 3-foot-deep wading pool that looked much deeper.

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"I could tell that something was wrong with my spine immediately," Hayward said. "My back was broken."

Now outfitted with a brace that immobilizes his head, Hayward knows he's lucky that the accident didn't paralyze him.

Once Hayward was back at home, his co-workers didn't hesitate to lend a hand. Fire Department engineer and general contractor Shane Sanford led the effort, sending e-mails to members of the Santa Fe Springs and Downy fire departments.

"Brent would be helping anyone else out in a second," Sanford said while nailing molding over a window. "He's one of the absolute nicest guys we all know."

Collective efforts like the one at Hayward's home is not unusual for this tight-knit group of firefighters.

The two departments often unite to help the families of injured or fallen co-workers, and they also bond while volunteering with women's shelters and children's programs.

"Whenever someone needs help or gets injured, the guys say, 'Hey, let's go help out,' " Hayward said. "But I've never seen an effort of this magnitude."

Hayward will wear the brace for eight weeks and is expected to make a full recovery. He hopes to return to his job in August or September.

Watching Hayward laugh and joke with co-workers, retired Fire Chief Norbert Schnabel said, "It's a real brotherhood."

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