Custom gear gives one-armed firefighter second chance

By Sara Belsole

COLUMBUS, GA –   Lieutenant Eugene Hull is in charge of teaching fire cadets in Columbus how to fight fire.

But when it comes to sending the cadets into controlled burns, Hull says he feels like an outsider looking in.

“It's like a kid looking into a toy store. They get to go in and have all the fun and get to stand outside and watch them,” Hull says.

Hull, a 31-year fire veteran, lost his right arm and shoulder to cancer in 2006. His disability prevents him from putting on a fire suit and going inside a burning building.

But today, all that has changed.

Safety gear companies NAFECO and Lion Apparel have created custom turnout gear that will keep Hull safe inside fire simulations.

“It improves my credibility. Now not only do I stand up and class and tell them this is what you do in a fire and this is why you do it, now I can go in there with them and actually show them,” Hull says.

A huge advantage for Columbus Fire and EMS.

“We can retain a valuable employee, who is very resilient, has a great attitude and continue to use that employee where normally we would loose a huge asset,” Fire Marshal Chief Ricky Shores says.

Hull's suit may look like the traditional fire suit, but it does have some crucial differences.

“The biggest difference, the right arm has been sealed off so no moisture can get in it,” Hull says.

Hull's suit doesn't zip up like traditional gear, instead it has velcro and buckles. His suspenders also have an extra strap to help with support.

But even more impressive, the support Hull has received from the department.

“The things the manufacturer was impressed with the most was that the city refused to give up on me, they allowed me to continue working,” Hull says.

Hull says he hasn't officially used his new gear yet. He is hoping to use it in the coming weeks when his class is ready to head out to the drill field.

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