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Injured firefighter's experience may have saved others from harm

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Joe Yeakley (Source: Lindale Fire Department) Joe Yeakley (Source: Lindale Fire Department)

Lindale firefighters say one of their bravest leaders, who's made a career out of taking care of other people, now needs their help.

Joe Yeakley was leading his team of firefighters into a Lindale house fire early Friday morning when the building collapsed.

Yeakley and three other firefighters were hurt in the collapse. But firefighters say Yeakley's experience might have saved others from being seriously injured.

The hose Yeakley was on was still being dug out of the rubble by investigators this morning.

At the height of the fire he was where he always is, on the front end of a team.

"He always was the one, he wanted to be on that line. He wanted to be there to make sure that safety factor was there," says Lindale Fire Department Lieutenant Aaron Munn.

The team went in through the garage.

"They took a calculated risk, knowing what those risks were," says Smith County Fire Marshal Oren Hale.

Yeakley's fellow firefighters say they heard a creaking noise and then seconds later the roof collapsed.

As it began to collapse, Yeakley was on the front end of the hose team. Two members of his team knew enough to get into a door jam to avoid being crushed. Yeakley couldn't get there, trapped by burning wood.

Firefighters quickly pulled Yeakley out, critically injured.

"He's not one of these that’s going to take a lot of very dangerous chances. The fact this happened to him is very shocking," Munn says.

"They know the dangers up front. They're willing to accept those dangers and risk their lives," Hale says.

Yeakley had instructed many in his own department about safety and that may have saved others from being injured in the blaze.

"He's got a total of about 30 years experience. He's an instructor and very protective. There's quite a few guys that look to him as a father figure. He’s a good guy," says Munn.

The Smith County fire marshal says the state fire marshal's office may be joining the investigation.

Yeakley is in critical condition at a Dallas hospital.

The Lindale Fire Department announced Friday afternoon that they are currently taking donations of snacks and money to take to the Yeakley family during their extended stay in the Dallas area while Joe recovers. Donations can be taken to Lindale's central fire station at 208 East Hubbard Street. Monetary donations can be made in the family's name at Texas Bank and Trust locations.

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