“The Littlest Firefighter,” the Story of A Dying Boy and the Phoenix Fire Department–Truth!
Summary 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.
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.