Local News

Chapel Hill firefighter recalls time in Iraq in new book

Posted June 15, 2008 6:40 p.m. EDT
Updated June 15, 2008 7:46 p.m. EDT

— A Chapel Hill firefighter who spend a year working at a military base in Iraq has documented his experience there in a new book.

Richard Bucci took his firefighting skills to one of Iraq's most dangerous places, as a contract firefighter on base.

“I was a lieutenant, so I was in charge of operations and training,” Bucci said.

His mission was to build a fire department in Mosul and extinguish fires, many started by mortar attacks.

“I did more fires there in one year, than the three years with Chapel Hill,” Bucci said.

His book, "A Firefighter's Story," chronicles his time in the troubled country.

One of his stories recalls the day an insurgent blew himself up in a military base's chow hall.

“It was December 21, 2004,” Bucci said. “My firefighters were first ones on the scene.”

The blast killed 23 people and injured 90 others.

“It was probably as close to hell as I can imagine because you can smell burnt flesh, body parts everywhere, it was a bad scene,” Bucci said.

Bucci said there is no question that being a solder in Iraq is tough.

“I didn't go where people want to kill you. Where insurgents drive by and open fire on you. And they have to live through that every day, in the 130 degree temperature, sandstorms, flooding. It's amazing what they have to deal with,” he added.

Bucci brought a North Carolina flag to Mosul and had soldiers from the state sign it. The flag hangs at Station No. 2 in Chapel Hill.

Bucci said he will donate 80-percent of the book's proceeds to help fund mental health counseling for soldiers.

You can buy "A Firefighter's Story" at the Chapel Hill Museum or special-order it from Barnes and Noble.