A reserve Burbank Police officer badly burned while disposing of road
flares remains in critical condition, prompting the department’s
union to organize fund-raisers to assist his family.
Sgt. DeWayne Wolfer was injured May 16 at the police pistol range
while he and Rangemaster Larry Nichols were disposing of several
crates of defective flares by burning them, Lt. Janice Lowers said.
According to Lowers, the fire from the burning flares was
beginning to cool at the surface when water underneath the surface
became hot, creating a steam bubble that exploded.
“We do it all the time, and there’s never been a bit of a problem
before,” Lowers said, adding that the faulty flares were the same
ones linked to fires in three police cars over an 18-month period
between 1999 and 2000.
Lowers said the department typically burns flares any time they’ve
exceeded their useful life. Wolfer, a bomb expert and member of the
International Assn. of Bomb Technicians and Investigators, has
supervised past flare disposals, she said.
Wolfer, a Burbank resident who received second- and third-degree
burns over 33% of his body, was taken to Grossman Burn Center in
Sherman Oaks, where he is in critical condition. Nichols received
minor burns and was treated and released from Providence St. Joseph
Nichols was on vacation and could not be reached for comment,
Wolfer, who must be kept in a sterile environment to avoid
infection, is making progress in his recovery, Lowers said. Reached
at the burn center, Wolfer’s wife, Bunny, said no timetable has been
set for his release from the hospital. Bunny Wolfer declined to
comment on the fire.
Lowers said Wolfer’s injury is the most serious one sustained by
an officer that she could remember in her 26-year career.
Wolfer, a 19-year veteran of the department, has volunteered more
than 19,000 hours, police said. While his medical bills are covered
through workers’ compensation, Burbank Police Officers Assn.
President Darin Ryburn said the self-employed dentist is not
reimbursed for lost salary while hospitalized.
“Doc Wolfer is one of the reserves who has done an absolutely
outstanding job here,” Ryburn said. “To see this happen to someone
who doesn’t have the financial security we do through the state
system is a real shame.”
The association has donated $3,000 to Wolfer from its Catastrophic
Illness and Injury Fund to help him recoup lost salary, Ryburn said.
A dental hygienist and support staff are employed at Wolfer’s Los
Angeles practice, where Ryburn said officers have been encouraged to
go for teeth cleanings.
Officers have already donated $1,000 to the injury fund since
Wolfer’s injury, and Ryburn said the association is in the process of
organizing fund-raisers for the department and community. Anyone
interested in donating money for Wolfer can contact the Burbank
Police Officers Assn. at 842-1133.