Metro Detroit firefighters help one of their own get back on feet

Posted at 4:55 PM, Aug 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-31 18:22:10-04

A man who was found sleeping on a bench in Mt. Clemens is identified as Rich Morales, a former Hazel Park firefighter battling PTSD and addiction.

Hazel Park firefighter Lt. Mike Sharrow said, "He's such a good guy, he doesn't deserve to be like this. He deserves to be with us."

Sharrow was filled with emotion after learning the man who helped train him to be a Hazel Park firefighter was found living on the streets in Mt. Clemens.

"He's one of the best people that I know."

Ironically, it was Mt. Clemens firefighters who found him.

Sharrow said Morales walked away from his job six years ago when his battle with alcoholism got out of control.

He had been trying to find Morales for years and was heartbroken to see his mugshots after being arrested for public intoxication.

"Kind of stuff you have to deal with inside your head and sometimes it leads to drinking and drugs, just to numb it, just to make it stop."

Rich was married with three daughters.

Sharrow said Rich's life spiraled out of control after his friend Hazel Park Officer Jessica Nagle-Wilson was shot and killed in the line of duty back in 2002.

"He was on the ambulance, he ran on that call and it seemed to really, really destroy his mind."

Morales was found Friday around 6 a.m. sleeping on a bench hundreds of feet away from the Mt. Clemens Fire Department.

Mt. Clemens Firefighter David Buscaino said, "About 1 o'clock, our captain said to go check in him. We went over there, checked on him, woke him up and he was pretty shaky and I kind of just look at him and said, 'tell me your story, what's going on?'"

Morales told them he was a former firefighter, so they tried getting touch with the Hazel Park Fire Department.

"When he told us that story, I told him he broke my heart, he broke my heart. I told him I would do anything to help him," Buscaino added.

They took him to the hospital, but shortly after he was back on the streets.

"Our union president said, 'I think we know where Rich is.' We jumped in the truck and we came down to Mt. Clemens," Sharrow said.

They found Morales Saturday morning sleeping on these church stairs.

"I could not believe we found him," Sharrow said. "He was just so skinny. I'm not used to seeing him like this."

Sharrow said Morales recognized him, even calling by his nickname.

"He focused in on me and he said, 'itsy.'"

On Monday, Sharrow drove him to Maryland to the International Association of Firefighters treatment facility that specializes in addiction.

Local firefighters and their union have made donations to help Morales, but they need $20,000 more just to cover his rehab, so Sharrow set up a GoFundMe page

"He said, 'Let me ask you a question. Why are you doing this for me?' I said, 'It's because we love you.'

To donate, click on: