PATERSON, N.J. (CBS 2) — Isaac Feliciano fought to become a firefighter. It was his dream, ever since firemen saved his family when he was four-years-old, Randall Pinkston reports.
“I was going to be a type of guy to give back to the community,” he said.
However, he faced a big challenge: a childhood infection cost him his leg from the knee down.
“A lot of people didn’t think I was able to do certain things,” he said.
When the Paterson, New Jersey Fire Department refused to give him a chance, he went to court and won.
“I knew getting on the job, people did not know me. I had to show and prove myself,” he said.
Deputy Chief Joseph Murray got to know Feliciano at the Fire Academy. “He never made excuses. He never backed down. He was a leader,” he said.
After five years on the job, Feliciano has proven he can handle the job and gets no special treatment. Now he sports a special prosthesis made of kevlar that can handle extreme temperatures.
Feliciano hoped his experience would motivate others with disabilities, especially veterans, to pursue their own dreams.
“I try to encourage them, to let them know it has been done. They can do it,” he said.
There are an estimated 1,500 amputee firefighters on active duty across the nation. Firefighting is one of the toughest jobs around.