Lionel and Joanna Crowther

Lionel and Joanna CrowtherLionel has been a firefighter for 23 years; 21 of them have been with the Winnipeg Fire Department. Joanna has worked with the University of Manitoba, in the faculty of emergency medicine, for the last 16 years.

On February 4, 2007, a tragic fire changed the lives of the Crowther family. Lionel suffered burns to 70% of his body, with 20% requiring skin grafting. Once medically cleared, he returned to full duty. However, tragically two captains of the Winnipeg Fire Department, Harold Lessard and Tom Nichols, were killed.

Since the fire, Lionel and Joanna have displayed perseverance and dedication in their ongoing struggle to survive. Along with their three children (Noah-18, Nathan-16 and Madison-9), the family soon realized surviving the immediate trauma was only the first triumph; the struggle to recapture their lives and to reaffirm a sense of self and family was, and continues to be, the greater and enduring trial.

Lionel focused his energy on firefighter survival, preventing and preparing for the Mayday, and finding ways to assist firefighter burn survivors. Lionel was appointed by the General President of the IAFF as a Master Instructor for the IAFF Fire Ground Survival Program, and he is a train-the-trainer for the Petzl EXO Escape System.

Due to Lionel and Joanna’s dedication to assisting burn survivors and their families, Lionel was appointed as the IAFF Burn Foundation Coordinator for the 13th District, and is a trained peer supporter for burn-injured firefighters. For the last 9 years, he has served on the American Burn Association committees. Additionally, he was a faculty member to help plan the first responder content for the Canadian Burn Symposium. Recently, Lionel graduated from the Los Angeles Fire Department Leadership Academy, studying the Sciences of Behavior curriculum from the West Point Officer Program.

For this presentation, the Crowthers will break down what happened on that tragic night. They will discuss the many challenges and triumphs faced as a firefighter, but also from the personal perspectives of being a wife, husband, mother, father, family and a survivor.

Session 5 - In this together: Family resilience and first responder mental health