Support flooding in for critically injured Fresno fire captain including Friday blood drive

Support for Fresno Fire Capt. Pete Dern, critically injured Sunday when he fell through a garage roof while fighting a hosue fire, is flooding in including a fast-growing fund to support his family and blood drives Friday and next week.

Dern had seven hours of surgery Wednesday to remove dead skin and for temporary skin grafts and remains in critical but stable condition, a burn center official said.

Dern was on a ventilator overnight to help him breathe, said Sandra Yovino, director of the Leon S. Peters Burn Center.

He is on pain medication and is sedated, Yovino said Thursday morning. Dern could face more surgeries later this week or early next week, she said.

Dern was severely burned Sunday while fighting a house fire in central Fresno. The captain was leading a team and was poking holes in the garage roof when it collapsed and he fell into an inferno.

A video of Dern being engulfed in flames as he fell into the garage has drawn national attention.

A fundraising page has been established at youcaring.com to assist Dern’s family. It had surpassed $86,000 by Friday morning.

Support for Dern has been widespread: Friday and Saturday, Bakersfield firefighters plan a benefit in conjunction with the grand opening of the Broken Yolk Cafe. The chain’s “Iron Man Omelet Challenge” had been planned as a fundraiser for local burn funds, but television station KGET reported that Bakersfield firefighters are now planning to send proceeds to the fund benefiting Dern and his family. The restaurant is pledging $2,000; it is also selling $50 tickets today and Saturday for a breakfast for two, with all those proceeds going to the Dern benefit.

The Fresno Senior Softball League will hold a special slow-pitch softball tournament with all proceeds going to the Dern family on April 18-19 at Quigley Field in Fresno. The cost will be $15 per player, and teams will be drafted in two divisions: over 50 and over 60. League President Brenda Forth said that at least one Fresno firefighter will also be assigned to each team. Forth asks for anyone wishing to donate food, banners or prizes to call her at (559) 907-7633.

Blood drives also are being organized on Dern’s behalf. On Friday, people can donate blood from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at American Ambulance at Tulare Avenue and Highway 41, said Fresno Fire spokesman Pete Martinez.

The Visalia Fire Department is organizing a blood drive Monday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Central California Blood Center, 1515 S. Mooney Blvd. Tacos will be provided at the drive by Chapalas from 11 a.m. until they run out.

The Fresno Fire Department also plans a blood drive next week. The department announced Thursday that people can support Dern by donating blood from 2 to 6 p.m. April 10 at Clawson Honda and Clawson Motorsports, 6346 N. Blackstone Ave. in northeast Fresno.

“Pete is one of the finest people I have ever known,” said John McKoane, vice president of Clawson.

Fresno Fire Chief Kerri Donis will be at the blood drive with other Fresno firefighters. “Capt. Pete Dern is an inspiration to each one of us,” Donis said. “This is a great opportunity for the community to support Captain Dern in his recovery.”

Related stories from Fresno Bee