Seven months ago, Lebanon City Fire Department firefighter Dave Smiley Jr. was severely burned fighting a house fire in Mill Creek, DE.

Last Sunday, October 13, Smiley returned to work.

In March Smiley sustained 2nd- and 3rd-degree burns on 10 percent of his body, according to his father David Smiley Sr.’s Facebook post following his injury. Smiley was volunteering his off-duty time at Minquas Fire Company in Delaware at the time.

After Smiley was hospitalized, medical professionals initially estimated that it would be a year before he could return to work. When he was released from the hospital, that estimate went down to six-to-eight months. Smiley was released October 13, one day shy of seven months.

Smiley has seen a physical therapist four times a week throughout his recovery.

“There’s definitely physical limitations I’ve faced for the past seven months,” said Smiley. “I’m just keeping a positive mindset through everything. I’ve had some rough days, I guess, but for the most part everything has pretty much worked itself out.”

Following Smiley’s injury, this photo of him was spread to support him throughout social media, often with the hashtag “Smileystrong.” The Lebanon City Fire Department’s Facebook Page has the photo, with hashtag, as its profile picture.

During his Sunday shift, Smiley and other firefighters on duty performed truck checks and trained at the firehouse, but there were no calls. However, this marks Smiley’s return to his previous schedule.

“It was slow, but I need to get back in the routine, so it was good,” said Smiley.

Now-23-year-old Smiley was first hired at the fire department in November of last year. In the months before his accident, Lebanon Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 1952 president Jan Harnish said he made a “huge impact on his co-workers through his compassion and work ethic.”

Smiley explained that his coworkers were very welcoming toward him when he returned to work.

“They’re some of my best friends,” said Smiley. “[In the fire department] the guys you work with are pretty much your family while you’re at work, so the relationship’s a little different than most jobs.”

During his recovery, Smiley’s fellow firefighters at the Local 1952 sold stickers and T-shirts to raise money for Smiley.

“I can’t thank these guys enough for everything they did,” said Smiley.

Read More: Lebanon firefighters continue raising money for Dave Smiley following March injury

Emily Bixler was born and raised in Lebanon and now reports on local government. In her free time, she enjoys playing piano and going for hikes.


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