Only hours after being released from Stony Brook University Medical Center’s burn unit, Manorville firefighter William Hille, who was injured in , was back at the firehouse among his fellow firefighters on Wednesday, describing his traumatic experience.
Hille, 35, was released from the hospital Tuesday night at approximately 7 p.m.
“It was scary,” Hille said. The brush truck Hille was on was surrounded by flames, he said, and the truck was not moving. Although the driver tried to get it in motion, the ferocious flames were encroaching.
“We tried to battle it back, but it overtook us. The whole truck was circled by fire. We had to flee on foot,” Hille said. “Even in my best of shape, I couldn’t outrun a fire.”
Hille was burned when he was on the truck, trying to fight back the flames, a hose line in each arm. “I was trying to knock it back,” he said. “It had me down to my knees and I thought, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’”
With second-degree burns on his right hand and right ear and first-degree burns on his nose, cheeks and left ear, Hille and his comrades took refuge at a pond, thinking that if the fire approached, they could swim. Eventually, they emerged on Route 25, and Hille was brought to the hospital for treatment.
Two other firefighters were injured but were not hospitalized.
A commissioner with the Manorville Fire Department, Hille also works as a corrections officer in New York.
Hille is married, with a 5-year-old daughter, Amara. His wife, Laura, he said, is “stoic” and has remained strong throughout the experience. But for Hille, the fires were life-altering.
“Any near death experience will make you reevaluate,” he said. “I’m just fortunate to be here, and I’m happy the guys are okay.”
Hille’s proud of his fellow firefighters. “They knocked that thing back,” he said. “They’re all heroes.”
And despite his ordeal, Hille, who has been with the Manorville Fire Department for 12 years, said he plans to continue fighting fires.
“Once you fall off the horse, you have to get back on.”