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Blind Firefighter Saves Lives

Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from, South Dakota, October 9, 2004.

A medical condition could change someone's life in a matter of minutes. And for a Dell Rapids man, it did just that.

For Will Boever, the sound of a working fire detector is music to his ears. The 34-year-old has given the last 10 years of his life to being a volunteer firefighter with the Dell Rapids Fire Department. But eight years ago it wasn't his ears, but his eyes that caused him to hang up his water hose. "I could be sitting at home right now, in my lazy boy, bitter and grumpy. But you have a choice to move on with a disability," said Boever.

In 1996 a blood clot in the back of Will's brain damaged his optical nerves--leaving him almost completely blind. "I could be sitting there with the pager on--it goes off and says it's a structure fire. And I pop up out of my chair and run to the door, and I'm like, I can't drive."

The father of four was devastated when he lost his sight, and tried to quit being a firefighter. But the guys at the Dell Rapids Fire Department--who he calls family--wouldn't let him. Instead, Will found he could still save lives--without physically putting out fires. He now handles all the fire safety training for the department. "Saving that one child's life, or the family's life will give me great pleasure," said Boever.

On Friday, 3rd graders from Dell Rapids Public School stopped by the fire station. Taiven Logan said, "We learned about fire safety and what to do if you catch on fire." Jordan Stone added, "You need to check batteries every month." The kids enjoy Will's fire classes, but by watching him on the job--you'd never guess he's blind--and most people don't. Dell Rapids Fire Fighter Denny Fossum said, "None of the kids know he can't see. Unless it's a friend of the family."

Throughout the whole ordeal, Will leaned on his family at home and at the Dell Rapids Fire Department--people he wouldn't trade for anything. "The group of guys. They treat me as if I'm sighted. They give me a little grief, I think if they give me grief--they like me," said Boever. "We razz him a lot. Hopefully that's how he knows he belongs with us," said Fossum.

160 kids went through Will's safety class this past week alone.

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