A routine Selma training exercise took a dangerous turn just as it was coming to an end. Nelson was doing the same training he'd done dozens of times in more than 10 years as a Selma firefighter. But the exercise ended about 12-feet early, and a guy who has put his life on the line to save others suddenly needed to be rescued himself.
With smoke billowing around them, Selma firefighters gushed water over the flames burning through a boarded-up home and cut holes in the roof to release heat building up inside. Monday's fire let firefighters put their training into action, including the use of ladders. But just two days earlier, behind one of two Selma fire stations and without any flames in sight, ladder training almost killed a firefighter.
"He just stopped and as our crews described it, he just let go," said Selma Fire Chief Mike Kain. "We don't know medically if something happened to him, but he fell to the ground."
Chris Nelson, a 10 year veteran firefighter and paramedic, plunged 12 feet, landing on his head. He was wearing his fire helmet, but he was also carrying a second ladder as well as the heavy gear firefighters typically carry into action.
The rest of his team saw it happen, and rushed to Nelson's side, where they found he had no heartbeat.
"Two of the firefighters - a captain and an engineer - are also paramedics, so they immediately went to work on him, got him stabilized, got his gear off," Kain said.
Doctors at Community Regional Medical Center performed extensive surgery on Nelson. They're also trying to figure out why he suddenly collapsed in the middle of training. On Monday, other firefighters manned Nelson's usual engine 111.
Firefighters from Fresno County and Kingsburg helped battle this fire, and units from other cities are helping as well as Selma firefighters take time to tend to Nelson and his family.
"The fire service is a brotherhood, so he's not just one of our co-workers, he's our brother," Kain said.
Nelson is still in critical condition Monday night, but the chief tells Action News he did regain consciousness at one point, and he recognized his wife in the hospital. Firefighters started a bank account for donations to help support his family.
Donations can be made through Union Bank #0043609924. Simply donate to the Selma Firefighters Association, c/o Chris Nelson.