By Miriam Raftery
January 1, 2014 (San Diego's East County) -- Governor Jerry Brown granted a Christmas Eve pardon to a firefighter who saved a teenager’s life during the Harris Fire in Potrero after suffering serious burns herself.
Brooke Linman had been convicted of firearms, drug and theft charges almost 20 years ago, but straightened her life out and began working as a firefighter in 2001. In 2007, her Cal-Fire crew was sent to help save homes in Potrero, where they helped evacuate Richard Varshock and his father, Thomas Varshock, who had been trying to defend their home against the firestorm. But the fire engine was overcome and caught fire, forcing them all to race on foot through a wall of flames.
Linman described it as going from pitch black with the sound of a speeding freight train in the background to blue clear skies and silence.
"It was like night and day," she said.
Linman was burned so severely on her face, in her lungs and other areas that she was later put in an induced coma for three weeks, requiring many skin grafts to recovery.
Recalling the fire, Linman said, “I was worried about my injuries, when suddenly I heard the sound of the teenager screaming in agony, which snapped me out of it, and I realized that now I had a patient. I went back into work mode and was able to take care of him."
Richard Varshock survived, thanks to Linman, though his father perished.
“Ms. Linman has provided exemplary service as a firefighter,” said Governor Brown in issuing the pardon. “Notably, while working as a firefighter, Ms. Linman was injured while saving the life of a teenage boy. As a result of her actions, she has received numerous awards and letters of recognition for her bravery and heroism.”
Linman tried to return to work as a firefighter, but reinjured a knee hurt in the Harris Fire, so has since retired. She now has young children of her own, and her story of heroism was documented in the film “Trials by Fire.”
She was one of 127 people given the gift of a pardon by Governor Brown this Christmas Eve.