SAN ANTONIO – A little over a year ago, San Antonio firefighter Brad Phipps was critically injured while battling a four-alarm fire at the Ingram Square strip center.
That fire in May 2017 claimed the life of fellow firefighter Scott Deem and also injured Robert Vasquez, who was a part of the rescue team sent in to locate Phipps and Deem.
Phipps was hospitalized for more than two months at the San Antonio Military Medical Center while hospital staff treated the severe burns he suffered in the fire.
Phipps was released Aug. 2 from the hospital and when he arrived home, was greeted by dozens of first responders.
Some of them were members of his first family at the Bexar County Emergency Services District No. 2.
“A lot of our members are really close to Brad and they go visit him. Anything he needs, we will be there for him but sometimes, I think he helps us more than we help him out,” Fire Chief Ralph Rodriguez told KSAT.com.
Rodriguez said Phipps started with the department when it was first named Geronimo Village Fire Department and then the transition into the Bexar County ESD No. 2.
Phipps spent more than 20 years with the department’s Station 121, moving up in the ranks before joining the San Antonio Fire Department.
Rodriguez said when the department finally got the approval to purchase three brand new fire engines, it was determined that Station 121’s truck would receive a special addition to honor Phipps.
“He means a lot to our organization. He’s coached and mentored a lot of firefighters and with engine 121, we put a picture of a firefighter on the back of the truck with ‘Phipps Strong,’” Rodriguez said.
Bexar County ESD firefighter Grace Proston, is not only honored to have the brand new trucks but also to be a part of the tribute for her friend, Phipps.
“There is not a stronger word that you could come up for Brad than literally being strong,” Proston said.
“Brad is one of the strongest guys I know, one of the bravest people I have ever worked with and to be Phipps Strong is to be Brad Strong,” she said.
Rodriguez said he hopes ‘Phipps Strong’ will also serve as a symbol for the department’s new firefighters.
“When our new guys ask what that means, we are able to let them know that: When things get tough, you keep pushing through so that way you can make it home to your family,” Rodriguez said.