Five years ago, on the morning of Dec. 18, 2007, Cody Schroeder and a team of fellow firefighters from Beaumont rolled up to a house fire that was “burning up pretty good.” He and a colleague were fighting the blaze in the house when suddenly they were trapped in a flashover, a phenomenon that occurs when thick smoke clings to the floor and the superheated gasses ignite. 

“Everything in the room ignites at one time,” said Schroeder. His colleague received second-degree burns on his back while he received third-degree burns over 34 percent of his body, on his back and down his right side. 

He was airlifted to the Blocker Burn Unit at UTMB, a burn center known globally for its expertise in burn treatment. He would spend the next three months on the island — six weeks in the unit itself and six more as an outpatient. 

Given his profession, he was familiar with the center, but his life-changing experience gave him a profound appreciation for the unit, the staff and the work they do. 

“The people are great at the Blocker Burn Unit,” said Schroeder. “All the nurses and doctors did a great job.” He attended a burn conference later and learned that the BBU is “highly revered.” 

The Blocker Burn Unit has its origins in the Texas City explosion of 1947, when Dr. Truman Blocker, surgeon and World War II veteran who would go on to become president of UTMB, treated many of the survivors and followed their progress for years. Over time, the unit has become one of the premier institutions of its kind in the world, responsible for groundbreaking treatments and training many who have become leaders in the care of burn patients here and around the world. 

On Feb. 23, the Blocker Burn Champions hosted their inaugural Stop, Drop and Roll 5K run/walk. The name comes from a phrase familiar to many as the simplest way to communicate what to do in the case of a fire. Registration was $25 for adults ages 14 and older and $10 for children, with all proceeds going toward assisting survivors of burn injuries and their families.

A fire truck siren stared the race at Moody Gardens at 8 a.m. and the Galveston Fire Department was on hand with a mock house to show people how to escape a fire.

Shroeder and a team of fellow firefighters from Beaumont ran in the inaugural race.  And for him, he said, it’s a way to give back a little something to the place that “saved my life.”