by Sara Forhetz, KY3 News
5:42 PM CDT, September 4, 2012
ELKLAND, Mo. -- A firefighter is thankful to be alive after a massive wildfire that he was battling overtook him, leaving him with severe burns. The fire happened on Aug. 30 near Marshfield in Webster County. David Kuestersteffen is just out of the hospital and agreed to talk about his ordeal on Tuesday.
Kuestersteffen has second- and third-degree burns on much of his body. He had skin graft surgery last week. He’s fully aware of how incredible his story of survival is.
The fire call couldn't have come at a worse time.
"The cedars were going up just left and right,” said Kuestersteffen.
It was a huge grassfire, fueled by the fierce wind, and only two Elkland volunteer firefighters were on call that day.
"I had been trying to douse the grass where the fire was coming at us and it wasn't doing a bit of good, very little good,” he said.
When Kuestersteffen arrived, the fire was on the move.
"It was scary.”
Some 400 acres were charred in no time.
"I'd say it came across that field at least 20 or 30 miles per hour.
Suddenly, Kuestersteffen was trapped inside the inferno.
"I thought I was so hot that my clothes were on fire, so I turned around and looked and, no, my clothes were not on fire -- for somehow."
His skin was on fire, however. Third-degree burns are on his arms, lower back and face.
"I know Jesus Christ will take care of me,” he said.
It turns out He was taking care of Linda Buttram, too.
"You explain it any other way -- explain it any other way!” said Buttram.
Her house still standing, spared by the fire but just barely.
"Nobody can tell me that's not a God thing. That is a God thing. I don't care how hard you don't believe in Him -- there it is, there it is. He is the only reason that house is standing. He's the only reason that house is standing,” Buttram said, fighting tears.
Her house is 100 percent untouched. It doesn’t have even any smoke damage. Her daughter's house next door is gone.
"It was like a Hollywood disaster film. Just a solid, solid row; it was awful,” said Buttram.
Buttram and Kuestersteffen survived the wildfire with miraculous stories to tell, and renewed faiths in the One who they say saves.
"I believe honestly I had a guardian angel that day laying over the top of me," said Kuestersteffen.
Kuestersteffen said his hospital nurses were amazing. He says the doctor told him it will take two years to completely recover but that he is healing faster than most. He says he'll continue fighting fires as soon as he gets healthy.
The Elkland Fire Department has an insurance policy that is covering his medical expenses. Kuestersteffen’s job is delivering newspapers. He said his friends and others in his community are taking care of his newspaper routes until he’s able to return to work.
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