‘A lot of heat’: Chesterfield County firefighters return home after facial burns

‘A lot of heat’: Chesterfield County firefighters return home after facial burns

JEFFERSON, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Father-and-son firefighters who were injured in a Chesterfield County mill fire over the weekend are back home and recovering.

Thomas Catoe and Thomas Catoe Jr. both said they suffered second-degree burns on their faces as a result of two explosions that happened while on scene at the Circle S shavings mill near Pageland.

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Five firefighters total were injured at the scene Jan. 20, but both father and son were ultimately treated at a burn center three hours away in Charleston.

“We thought this was going to be more simple than what we would’ve been doing, but it turned out to be probably one of the worst,” said the elder Catoe, who is also chief of the Sandhill Volunteer Fire Department.

Thomas Catoe and Thomas Catoe Jr. at the Charleston hospital. Photo: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/lacey.catoe" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Lacey Beth Catoe;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Lacey Beth Catoe</a>
Thomas Catoe and Thomas Catoe Jr. at the Charleston hospital. Photo: Lacey Beth Catoe
<a href="https://www.facebook.com/lacey.catoe" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Photo: Lacey Beth Catoe;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Photo: Lacey Beth Catoe</a>

Sandhill was responding to the scene with neighboring High Point Volunteer Fire Department. Fire officials said that as soon as some lingering burning sawdust and wood shavings came into contact with open air, there were two explosions that resulted in the firefighters’ injuries.

The mill is known to occasionally have fires, according to county officials, which necessitate a response. During Saturday night’s fire, Queen City News was told by firefighters that the mill’s fire suppression system was frozen due to the cold weather.

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Fire officials noted that the explosion was a unique circumstance and not related to how firefighters fought the blaze.

“When I looked up, it went black,” said Catoe Jr. “I felt a lot of heat.”

The fire chief’s helmet from the “fireball.”
The fire chief’s helmet from the “fireball.”

Despite suffering second-degree burns at the time, they did note that the mix of adrenaline and cold weather led them to not really feeling their injuries. However, they noted emergency responders on scene urged them to get checked out.

Eventually, they both sought care in Charleston.

Catoe’s injuries are mainly to his chin and nose. Catoe Jr.’s injuries are more extensive to his face. Both are expected to make a full recovery.

The two told Queen City News they plan to get back on the job of firefighting as soon as they are able.

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