ORLANDO, Fla. – At the Orlando Fire Conference, first responders with the St. Cloud Fire Department were honored for their role in saving patients with special needs from a burning home on Feb. 8.
Firefighters were battling the flames at 1:30 a.m. on the 900 block of Alabama Avenue, home to the Foster family who was well-known in the community for taking in children with special needs.
The home belonged to the mother of Orlando Fire Lieutenant Richard Foster. Over the last 40 years, his parents fostered nearly 500 children, most with special needs or terminal illnesses.
Lieutenant Donald Fitzgerald was part of the first unit at this community staple when the fire started.
REUNITED: In a special surprise, the children saved from a burning home met their rescuers of @StCloudFireDept for the first time in front of hundreds of firefighters attending the Orlando Fire Conference. pic.twitter.com/BqVxuQGvpB— Orlando Fire Dept (@OrlandoFireDept) February 20, 2020
“It was very personal for us when we heard the address, to begin with,” he said. “Myself and two firefighters went inside, rescued one person, came back out and changed our bottles and I went in with a different firefighter and found another person.”
As part of the ceremony, firefighters got to see several patients for the first time since the fire.
"To see them okay and out now is very rewarding," Fitzgerald added.
Nearly two weeks later, those first responders got a chance to meet those they helped save.
Heather Foster escorted several of the children to the event, her in-laws lived at that home.
"It could have been so different having those kids up in the beds," she said. "The outpouring of love and support that we have felt is amazing."
The cause of that fire is still under investigation by the State Fire Marshal.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family that runs that special needs home. You can donate by clicking or tapping here.