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Doc: 'Long road' for firefighter Wiedmann

New York City firefighter Robert Wiedmann.

New York City firefighter Robert Wiedmann. Credit: Handout

Firefighter Robert Wiedmann, burned Monday over half his body while battling a Brooklyn blaze, will undergo the first of many surgeries Friday during what's expected to be months in the hospital and possibly a year of rehabilitation, one of his doctors said Thursday.

Wiedmann, 38, of Islip Terrace, will have the surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, where he is a patient, said Dr. Roger W. Yurt, director of the Hearst Burn Center.

The firefighter, who is in critical condition, is likely to have at least one surgical procedure a week in the six to eight weeks he is hospitalized. Many of his injuries were third-degree burns.

"There's a long road to go," Yurt said of the operations, which will include skin grafts.

Wiedmann has been more concerned for his family than himself, his brother Douglas Wiedmann said Thursday at a hospital news conference.

"They're doing everything they can to make him comfortable," said Wiedmann, 35, of Baldwin. "They're taking very good care of our hero."

Douglas Wiedmann said his brother can use a board with letters of the alphabet to spell out what he's trying to say.

"It's very frustrating for him," he said.

Robert Wiedmann, who is married with three children, has been asking how his family and fellow firefighters are doing, he said. "He's asking how we are. He's more worried about us than he's worried about himself," Douglas Wiedmann said.

Yurt said that in general a burn victim is hospitalized one day for each percent of his or her body injured in a fire.

Robert Wiedmann and fellow Rescue 2 firefighter James Gersbeck, 52, of Port Jefferson Station, were searching the front of the third floor of a residential building Monday morning when hot gas erupted into a ball of fire and came barreling at them.

Gersbeck, a 25-year veteran, tumbled down a stairway. Wiedmann, a 14-year veteran, waited for an aerial ladder at a third-story front window.

Gersbeck was less seriously hurt, with second- and third-degree burns, and escaped on his own. He was in fair condition Thursday at the same facility and is "up and around," Yurt said.

FDNY Chief of Operations Robert Sweeney said Thursday that the fire remained under investigation but isn't considered suspicious. The inquiry is expected to last a couple of weeks.

"We're trying to find out, was it something we did, or was it inevitable that this room was going to flash over at that particular moment in time?" Sweeney said.

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