As reported by, a Newark Firefighter injured while battling a blaze in December left a rehabilitation facility on Thursday while being heralded in a ceremony by fellow firefighters and friends. Paul Leber, 38, checked out of the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation and returned home to continue his recovery, officials said. Firefighters, friends, and officials lined the walkway outside the building as Leber exited the building.

“We are thankful that (Paul) Leber has reached this significant milestone in his recovery,” Newark Director of Public Safety Anthony Ambrose said in a statement. “Over the past month, I’ve come to consider Paulie a friend. I’ve spoken to him almost every day since he was injured and I’m proud of him and for what he stands for.”

Leber became trapped inside a building on Park Avenue after responding to a two-alarm fire at Velez Tire and Auto on December 30th. Police said Leber was in the tire shop with other members of Engine 7 Rescue 1 when they were ordered out of the building as conditions worsened. Leber became disoriented as he was exiting and firefighters went back into the building to rescue him, authorities said.  He was subsequently taken to University Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition before being moved to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx for further treatment, authorities said. From there, Leber was transferred to Kessler, where he spent three weeks. He was given a ride home in an Engine 7 truck.

Leber suffered burns to his face and airway from the heat and smoke inhalation, according to Ambrose. Leber, a graduate of the Bergen County Fire Academy who was born in Passaic, joined the department after serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

This illustrates how dangerous the job as a public safety officer can be. We join Firefighter Leber’s family and friends in welcoming him home and wish him well in his continued recovery.