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Injured firefighter O'Toole shows off progress at fundraiser

Firefighter Kevin O'Toole, who was severely injured in

Firefighter Kevin O'Toole, who was severely injured in a Maryland fire earlier this year, is hugged by friend Nancy Ciarniello, 27, of Bethpage, at a fundraising concert held in his honor at The Paramount in Huntington. (June 16, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Fordyce

The past 3½ months have been brutal for volunteer firefighter Kevin O’Toole. To deal with  second- and third-degree burns on more than 50 percent of his body, he has endured 10 skin graft surgeries and rehabilitation.

But Saturday night, he got a reprieve. Thanks to his fellow firefighters from Bethpage Engine & Ladder Company 4 who organized a fundraiser at The Paramount in Huntington in his honor, he was smiling, enjoying music by the Pirate Beach Band and catching up with friends.

“It’s amazing because since the beginning they have been supporting me,” O’Toole, 21, of Hicksville, said.

O’Toole was one of several firefighters injured in a blaze at a vacant home in Maryland earlier this year. O'Toole, who joined the volunteer department in Prince George's County, Md., while a student at the University of Maryland, suffered burns to his legs, ankles, thighs, fingertips, arms, shoulders and abdomen.

He is now undergoing physical and occupational therapy at Nassau University Medical Center. He said in the past few weeks he has made great progress and doctors believe he will make a 95 percent recovery.

“It’s been one hell of an adventure,” O’Toole said. “I have my good days and bad days. More good days than bad, lately.”

Company 4 Capt. Michael Trimarco said the department would back O’Toole for as long as he needs.

“This is what we do,” he said. “When one of us is in need, we all pull together.”

Thanks to The Paramount’s support, Trimarco said all of the money raised from the tickets sales for the concert would go to O’Toole to help him with medical bills and other expenses.

“We just want him to get better,” he said. “And as close to 100 percent as he can.”

While the event drew fellow firefighters, family and friends, others from the community turned out as well, including Don and Kathy McDougal from Sea Cliff.

“I personally don’t know him,” said Don McDougal. “But he is doing a great service for everyone and we’re happy to support him.”

That support means the world to O’Toole.

“I don’t regret what I did that night,” O’Toole said. “I still love being in the fire department and helping others who need it. But right now, they are helping me. And it’s great to know that people are still supporting me and are going to help me get through this long journey.”

Photo: Bethpage firefighter Kevin O'Toole, who was severely injured in a Maryland fire earlier this year, is hugged by friend Nancy Ciarniello, 27, of Bethpage, at a fundraising concert held in his honor at The Paramount in Huntington. (June 16, 2012)

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