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LI fireman badly burned in Md. back home

Upon his arrival in Bethpage, Kevin O'Toole gets

Upon his arrival in Bethpage, Kevin O'Toole gets a welcome hug from his sister Mary-Kate, 17. (April 21, 2012) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A young Long Island firefighter, ailing from debilitating burns sustained while battling a blaze in Maryland, received a hero's homecoming Saturday in Bethpage.

Waiting for Kevin O'Toole were friends, family, fellow firefighters from across the Island -- and a few slices of his beloved New York pizza that's unmistakably unavailable in Maryland.

Two months ago, O'Toole, 21, was one of several firefighters injured in a blaze at a vacant home in Riverdale, Md. The burns -- to his legs, ankles, thighs, fingertips, arms, shoulders and abdomen -- are second and third degree to more than 50 percent of his body.

O'Toole is a Bethpage firefighter and joined the volunteer department in Prince George's County, Md., while a student at the University of Maryland- College Park. He's no longer enrolled there, but he visited the friends he made -- and fought fires with them.

On Saturday, O'Toole wore compression garments over his arms, hands and legs -- to protect him as he recovers from skin grafts.

"It's great to be back and actually be able to thank everybody," O'Toole said as well-wishers snapped pictures.

O'Toole plans to complete his rehabilitation at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, said his mother, Jane.

The family, which lives in nearby Hicksville, was glad to have him home -- and that he's alive.

"We didn't know if he was going to make it or not," his mother said.

After nearly a half-hour of homecoming hellos, O'Toole sat in the fire department break room, chowing down on a slice from Ciminelli's pizzeria.

"He wanted New York pizza when he got back, so we got him a special pie," said firefighter Bill Zura.

More than 100 people came to welcome O'Toole home, including firefighters from Wyandanch-Wheatley Heights, Babylon and Jericho, to name a few. They mustered on Arumdaun Street in front of the firehouse.

"This is what we do," said Ned Jensen, one of the Bethpage firefighters, before O'Toole arrived. "A guy gets hurt, and everybody rallies around."

Then, the dispatch radio squawked with word of a house fire. Firefighters ran to a truck parked on Arumdaun and zoomed off.

Said Jensen: "And this is the other thing we do."


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