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Fire chief: Injured firemen fight for recovery

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“The families are strong and full of faith right now for a full recovery,” says Devin Graham, Roswell Fire Department chief at the Roswell City Council meeting Thursday night, as he provided an update about the two firefighters severely injured in a June 5 explosion at a fireworks bunker. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

City statement expected today about July 4th fireworks

The two Roswell firefighters critically injured June 5 while packaging fireworks for the annual Fourth of July show have undergone surgeries and remain in critical condition in a Lubbock hospital.

The update on the conditions of Jeff Stroble, 46, and Robert “Hoby” Bonham, 36, was provided by Devin Graham, Roswell Fire Department chief, at the Thursday night meeting of the Roswell City Council.

He said both men have undergone two surgeries. Bonham, an 18-year member of the department, might not require any more surgeries, Graham said, but Stroble, with the department for 17 years, is expected to need a couple of surgeries a week for a while.

“They each have their good days and their bad,” Graham said, “and the bad days are primarily determined by their pain levels, procedures to be done and the amount of rest they get.”

He added that Bonham is able to walk around a bit and eat solid foods, although he has severe pain and injuries.

Stroble is experiencing potentially “catastrophic” complications, but he is a “fighter” who is doing better than expected, Graham said.

“The families are strong and full of faith right now for a full recovery,” Graham said.

The other 10 firefighters who were on the scene at the bunker in the west end of the Roswell International Air Center are healing from their physical wounds, none of which required extended hospital stays. Graham added that they are “working through the process” of recovery.

He said his efforts now are to keep his troops “united, focused and resolved.”

Graham also noted the support of the community, which gathered for a prayer vigil after the accident and have begun several fundraising efforts.

“I want to thank the community for the outpouring of support and prayers,” he said, “and I believe that God will guide our community and our firefighters through this process.” 

In response to a question, City Manager Joe Neeb explained that the city is providing financial assistance to Stroble and Bonham’s families for trips and accommodations while the firefighters are in the hospital and will continue to do so as long as needed.

Neeb added that discussions about whether the city will hold the traditional fireworks show during the annual Fourth of July celebration at Cielo Grande Recreation Center were expected to occur later in the City Council meeting, after press time. He explained that the city would issue an official statement today.

Juanita Jennings, city public affairs director, said that the Fourth of July event will continue with the Billy Ray Cyrus concert, Kid Zone activities, the beer garden and vendor booths.

The Roswell SERTOMA Club and Mike Satterfield Memorial Extravaganza has been occurring in the city for more than 20 years. The fireworks, funded by the city and the club, have been organized and run by the Roswell Fire Department for most of those years.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.