Former SEAL engulfed in fireball credits prayer for fast recovery


By Mark Ellis –

Fred Kolberg

As a former Navy SEAL medic, Fred Kolberg knew the minute he dropped a match into a burn pile near his farm that he made a terrible error.

“I used some accelerant, which was gasoline, which was a huge mistake. When I lit it a gust of wind came up at that opportune time and…I mean it happened instantaneously. The whole flame just engulfed my whole body,” he told CBN.

Fred retired from the SEAL Teams in 2003 after serving his country for 21 years. During his service, he became highly skilled as a Vertical Assault Master, Expert Marksman, Helicopter Rope Suspension Training Master (HRST), Tactical Field Operator, in Weapons Training, Surveillance Detection, Counter Surveillance, Vehicle Dynamics Driving Instructor, Small Arms and Crew Serve Weapons Instructor, Close Quarters Battle (CQB) and other capabilities.

From his extensive training, he knew to instantly drop and roll. While his clothing did not burn, he soon realized there was extensive damage to his arms and legs.

“I saw my skin hanging from both my arms and my legs. Only thing that was on my mind at that moment was ‘I gotta get to the hospital.’”

Fred managed to get home and call his wife Julie, who was at their farm, a few miles away.

Julie was shocked when she saw the extent of his burns. She wrapped him carefully and they raced to a hospital in Petersburg, Virginia.

Once doctors realized the severity, they airlifted Fred to the Virginia Commonwealth University Burn Center (VCU) in Richmond.

Fred airlifted (screenshot CBN)

Both Fred and Julie are strong Christians. Immediately, Julie began to pray.

After his arrival at VCU, Fred was taken to the ICU in critical condition with 2nd and 3rd degree burns covering 22% of his body, according to CBN.

Doctors’ main fear was loss of blood flow to the burn areas, with his right arm significantly impacted. If the blood flow was severely reduced, it could cause kidney failure and even death.

Fred at the burn center (screenshot CBN)

“I was just afraid he was going to die,” Julie confessed. “I knew God was there but I was just praying the whole time that he’d be okay.”

Doctors were surprised to discover Fred’s lungs and airway were undamaged by the fireball. After only two days in ICU, his circulation was remarkably better.

But the hopeful early signs took a turn for the worse after an infection set into the burn areas. The medical staff began to scrub and treat the underlying skin persistently.

No matter how much they scrubbed, they couldn’t get deep enough. His condition continued to deteriorate.

Fred’s right leg (screenshot CBN)

It got so serious his physicians decided to cut out the infected tissue.

Julie redoubled her prayers, requesting intercession from family and friends at church.

“They actually came up and prayed with him before going into surgery as well,” Julie recounted. “The support, it’s really hard to put into words. So awesome and so uplifting.”

Fred underwent two operations to remove all the infection. Then his doctors began a lengthy and painful process of skin grafting.

skin graft

Fred credits God for his survival. “It was really hard for me to accept that I almost died until I actually realized how close I was. I could have died right in my back yard. And Julie wouldn’t have known, probably for hours. That’s the whole reason for this right here, is to let everybody know that God answers prayers and He wants to heal.”

After surgeries

Originally, doctors told Fred he would be convalescing two to three months in the hospital.

But God heard their prayers! Only 10 days after his last skin graft Fred was released from the hospital.

And following an additional month of physical therapy, Fred was able to go back to work at his medical trauma and tactical training company.

Fred and Julie had feared he might be out of work six months to a year. But God overcame their worst fears. “There’s another miracle that God performed!” Fred said.

“Prayer can be so powerful because it can give you such a peace, you know, when you need it. Strength when you need it, to help you through situations when you need it.”

Fred (right) back to work on his farm

Fred has a favorite verse that ministered to him in his time of trouble. “John 14, ‘Whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.’”


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