The Littlest Firefighter
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"The Littlest Firefighter," the Story of A Dying Boy and the Phoenix Fire Department-Truth!

bulletSummary of eRumor:
A touching story about an unnamed boy who was dying of leukemia.  He told his mother that he wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up, so she called their local fire department in Phoenix and with the help of big-hearted "Fireman Bob," the little boys wish came true.  He was a firefighter for a day with a little uniform and all.  Later, as the end came for him, the firefighters came to the hospital with a ladder truck, climbed up the ladder to his widow, and joined him in his room as he breathed his last.
bulletThe Truth:
Although several details in this particular eRumor version of the story are not completely accurate, the story is true.  "Billy" is actually 7-year-old Frank Salazar (his family called him "Bopsy") and he was the first child to be helped by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that fulfills the wishes of children with life-threatening illness.  The story is from 1981.  It was Make-A-Wish that made the contact with the Phoenix Fire Department as a part of one of three wishes that Bopsy had.  The other two were to visit Disneyland and ride in a hot-air balloon.  All his wishes were fulfilled.

Make-A-Wish contacted firefighter Bob Walp who was well known to children in Phoenix as "Fireman Bob" on the popular "Wallace and Ladmo" television program.  Bopsy was welcomed to a fire station where a custom-made uniform was waiting for him complete with a yellow helmet and coat.  He did not go to any fire scenes that day, but did ride in the fire truck and got to use a fire hose.  The day ended with his being given a firefighter badge.

Later, when Bopsy's condition worsened and he was in the hospital, it is true that some of his firefighter friends came through his hospital window for a visit.  It was five firefighters, not 16.  They prompted some smiles from Bopsy then left.  He died later that evening.
A real example of the story as it has been circulated:

 The Littlest Firefighter
 
  In Phoenix, Arizona, a 26-year-old mother stared
  down at her son who was dying of terminal leukemia.
  Although her heart was filled with sadness, she also
  had a strong feeling of determination. Like any
  parent, she wanted her son to grow up and fulfill
  all his dreams. Now that was no longer possible.
  The leukemia would see to that. But she still wanted
  her son's dreams to come true. She took her son's
  hand and asked, "Billy, did you ever think about what
  you wanted to be once you grew up? Did you ever
  dream and wish what you would do with your life?"
 
  Mommy, "I always wanted to be a fireman when I
  grew up."
 
  Mom smiled back and said, "Let's see if we can make
  your wish come true."
 
  Later that day she went to her local fire department
  in Phoenix, Arizona, where she met Fireman Bob, who
  had a heart as big as Phoenix. She explained
  her son's final wish and asked if it might be possible
  to give her six-year-old son a ride around the block
  on a fire engine.
 
  Fireman Bob said, "Look, we can do better than that.
  If you'll have your son ready at seven o'clock
  Wednesday morning, we'll make him an honorary
  fireman for the whole day. He can come down to the
  fire station, eat with us, go out on all the fire calls,
  the whole nine yards! And if you'll give us his sizes,
  we'll get a real fire uniform for him, with a real fire
  hat-not a toy one-with the emblem of the Phoenix
  Fire Department on it, a yellow slicker like we wear
  and rubber boots. They're all manufactured right
  here in Phoenix, so we can get them fast."
 
  Three days later Fireman Bob picked up Billy,
  dressed him in his fire uniform and escorted him
  from his hospital bed to the waiting hook and
  ladder truck. Billy got to sit on the back of the
  truck and help steer it back to the fire station.
  He was in heaven. There were three fire calls in
  Phoenix that day and Billy got to go out on all
  three calls. He rode in the different fire engines,
  the paramedic's van, and even the fire chief's car.
  He was also videotaped for the local news program.
  Having his dream come true, with all the love and
  attention that was lavished upon him, so deeply
  touched Billy that he lived three months longer than
  any doctor thought possible.
 
  One night all of his vital signs began to drop
  dramatically and the head nurse, who believed in
  the hospice concept that no one should die alone,
  began to call the family members to the hospital.
  Then she remembered the day Billy had spent as
  a fireman, so she called the Fire Chief and asked
  if it would be possible to send a fireman in uniform
  to the hospital to be with Billy as he made his
  transition. The chief replied, "We can do better than
  that. We'll be there in five minutes. Will you please
  do me a favor? When you hear the sirens screaming
  and see the lights flashing, will you announce over
  the PA system that there is not a fire? It's just the
  fire department coming to see one of its finest
  members one more time. And will you open the
  window to his room?"
 
  About five minutes later a hook and ladder truck
  arrived at the hospital and extended its ladder up
  to Billy's third floor open window. 16 firefighters
  climbed up the ladder into Billy's room. With his
  mother's permission, they hugged him and held
  him and told him how much they loved him.
 
  With his dying breath, Billy looked up at the fire
  chief and said, "Chief, am I really a fireman now?"
  "Billy, you are, and the Head Chief, Jesus, is
  holding your hand," the chief said. With those words,
  Billy smiled and said,
  "I know, He's been holding my hand all day, and the
  angels have been singing." He closed his eyes one
  last time.
 
  My instructions were to send this to at least four
  people that I wanted God to bless and I picked you.
  Please pass this to at least four people you want
  to be blessed.
 
  This story is powerful and there is nothing attached,
  please do not break this pattern; uplifting stories
  are one of the best gifts we receive.
  There is no cost but a lot of rewards, let's continue to
  uplift one another.
 

 


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