Newark, NJ--One of Newark's bravest is on his way to recovery.
Newark Firefighter Paul Leber, who was injured while fighting a fire last month in Newark, was released Tuesday from Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx and was transported under police escort to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange.
Leber, 38, along with other members of Newark Fire Division Engine 7, responded to the two-alarm fire at Velez Tire Shop at 8 Park Avenue in the city's North Ward on the evening of Dec. 30 but were eventually ordered out of the building as conditions worsened.
Leber, a 10-year veteran of the department, became disoriented when exiting the building and was pulled to safety after members of Engine 7 and Rescue 1 went back inside the building to rescue him.
Leber suffered severe burns to his face and lungs and was airlifted in critical condition from Newark's University Hospital to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. He will now continue his recovery at Kessler.
The cause and origins of the fire remain under investigation by arson detectives from the Newark Fire Division.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka praised Leber for his bravery.
“We are honored to have a firefighter who is so committed to the safety of our city that he put his own life on the line for it,” Baraka said. “His selfless act of bravery serves as a brilliant example to firefighters everywhere. We continue to pray for Firefighter Leber’s swift recovery.”
Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose also lauded Leber for his heroism.
“We are grateful to see Firefighter Leber’s progress following his serious injuries,” Ambrose said. “And we are also proud of his heroic act on behalf of the City of Newark. I am also thankful to Jacobi Medical Center for the special care they provided to assist our firefighter in his ongoing recovery.”
Leber, a Passaic native, joined the department after graduating from Bergen County Fire Academy and serving in the U.S. Navy.
A GoFundMe campaign started for Leber on January 4 by fellow firefighter Mark Wolf has already raised more than $15,000 for the injured firefighter and his family.
"Thanks to his firefighter brothers, Paul was saved," Wolf wrote. "Hopefully he will be back with his crew at at Engine 7 soon! Aside from being a Newark firefighter, Paul has served our great country in the Navy. He is a great friend and will have your back without hesitation. Paul is loved by family and friends, even brothers of the FDNY and NYPD who have been extremely supportive during his recovery. Keep fighting Paul, you have many people in your corner."
A Facebook photo on Leber's timeline shows dozens of NFD firefighters lined up along a hallway at University Hospital on the night of the fire waiting for Leber to be airlifted out.
"Your engine is waiting for you brother," one fellow firefighter wrote. "Will keep those prayers going."