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Burned firefighters undergo surgery

May 8, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two Ventura County firefighters who were burned in the Santa Barbara firestorm underwent surgery Friday at the Grossman Burn Center.Captain Ron Topolinski, 57, suffered second-degree burns over 10 percent of his body. Doctors say he won't need skin grafting and should be released over the weekend.

Firefighter Robert Lopez, 44, has second- and third-degree burns over 15 percent of his body, including his head, shoulders and arms. Doctors will determine early next week whether he will need more surgery. He's expected to be hospitalized for at least one more week.

Their fellow firefighter, Capt. Brian Bulger, 57, was released from the Grossman Burn Center on Friday following treatment for smoke inhalation.

All three narrowly escaped with their lives when flames closed in on their fire engine on Wednesday, and they took shelter inside a home they were trying to save. Capt. Bulger was credited with rescuing Topolinski and Lopez just in time. In the rush to save the two men, Bulger didn't put on his protective breathing apparatus, and inhaled smoke.

"It could have been just a few more seconds when the injuries these men sustained could have become lethal," said Dr. Peter Grossman, Grossman Burn Center.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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