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Large crowd gives injured Hickory Hills firefighter warm welcome home

Photo by Scott Stewart, Evergreen Park Fire Department

Roberts Park firefighter Clint Sanders is accompanied by his wife, Sheila, and two children after arriving at his Hickory Hills home on Jan. 10. Sanders was greeted by the Roberts Park Fire Protection District and other local firefighters after arriving home earlier than expected after suffering injuries in a house fire last month.

 

Firefighter Clint Sanders arrived home earlier than expected after suffering critical injuries in a fire last month.

But what was expected was the large crowd that greeted him when he arrived at his Hickory Hills residence on Jan. 10 with his wife, Sheila, and two children. The large gathering included members of his Roberts Park Fire Protection District, neighbors, reporters and TV crews.

Sanders was injured on Dec. 27 as the Roberts Park Fire Department answered the call to put out a blaze at about 10:30 a.m. in a home in the 8800 block of West Fawn Trail in Justice. Sanders, 44, was transported to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood with smoke inhalation and burns to his hands and face, according to a hospital spokesperson.

His injuries from the blaze were critical and his lungs also suffered burns in the fire, which is still being investigated. No other firefighters were injured in the blaze. Members of the Roberts Park Fire Department kept in continuous contact with hospital officials to get updates on his condition. Hospital officials said they expected Sanders to make a full recovery.

Hospital representatives were careful in providing a timetable for when Sanders would come home. But Sanders did come home earlier than expected, walking gingerly and with his hands bandaged beyond his wrists.

“I appreciate all the people that looked out over me the last couple of weeks, including my family, my coworkers. (The) hospital staff has been amazing,” Sanders said.

Roberts Park Fire Chief Jeff Ketchen has worked with Sanders for over 24 years. He said his dedication and hard work is an inspiration to the department. His arrival home provided an emotional lift for all the firefighters.

“We have been getting updates each day from his family, so we weren’t that surprised when he came home early,” Ketchen said. “But this was great to see.”

Sanders began working with the department as volunteer when he was 16 years old, Ketchen said. A fundraiser that was organized by family and friends was held Jan. 8 at the Roberts Roadhouse in Hickory Hills. The money raised from the fundraiser will assist in paying the mortgage and help with tuition for Sanders’ children. The funds will go to his wife to assist with these expenses while Sanders recovers from his injuries.

While this is a time for firefighters, friends and relatives to celebrate, Sanders will need time to recuperate. But when Ketchen was asked if he expects Sanders to return to duty, he had a quick answer.

“I do, I truly do,” Ketchen said. “He has a passion for the job. It is who he is.”

But Ketchen added that the care he received in the hospital was a key factor in his recovery.

“I can’t say enough about the care he received at the Loyola Medical Center,” Ketchen added. “It was through their hard work and care that he was able to walk out of there in two weeks.”

Roberts Park Fire Department Lt. Robert Spoo has worked with Sanders for over 10 years.

“It was great to see him coming home,” Spoo said. “We all breathed a sigh of relief. He is very dedicated. It’s been his life and what he has been doing since he was 16 years old.”

Rhett Golema, a member of the Roberts Park Fire Department who has known Sanders for over 21 years, referred to him as a “phenomenal person.” He said another fundraiser that will be organized by the firefighters will take place at a later date.

Ketchen said that a Go Fund Me page has been set up by the family. Ketchen said over $46,000 had been raised before the Roberts Roadhouse fundraiser. The goal is to come up with over $100,000.

As for Sanders, he is happy to be home. His wife and children are also pleased he is back.

“We’re overwhelmed,” said Sheila. “The support we have received has just been amazing. It is a family.”

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