A D.C. firefighter who spent months in the hospital following an injury on the job is getting ready to head back to work.
Chuck Ryan was severely injured battling a house fire in April. Five other firefighters were also injured in the blaze, but none as severely as Ryan.
"My biggest thing about coming back is that I will get to the next chapter in my life,” Ryan told ABC7 News exclusively.
Ryan and Rescue Squad 3 were inside a burning house on 48th Place for only minutes on April 8 when the fire flashed over.
"It started getting hot and the smoke started changing, signs of a flashover,” Ryan said. The heat spiked to 2300 hundred degrees.
"My gear was on fire, everything, and my face piece started to melt,” Ryan said. "Just because you go inside of a burning structure doesn't always mean you are going to come out."
Ryan held his face mask in place – that saved his life.
"They didn't think we were going to make it through the night,” he said of doctors at the hospital.
Forty percent of Ryan’s body was covered in 2nd and 3rd degree burns. But even while recovering, Ryan longed to return to his job.
"From the moment I woke up in intensive care, all I was looking forward to was going back to work,” he said.
He was able to leave the hospital 49 days later and continue the even tougher days at home.
With the help of his 15-year-old daughter Shelby and 21-year-old son TJ, Ryan's wife Kathy took 80 days off from work. She had to change her husband’s bandages twice a day, painful three to four-hour sessions.
"I have a wonderful wife and best friend that is just amazing. I don't know how many people would have to be able to do what she did,” Ryan said.
He almost lost four fingers, but has healed now with his grip back to 100 percent. So is his spirit.
"Every day before you go to work it is like getting ready to go to Walt Disney World," Ryan said.
The arsonist who caused the house fire that injured Ryan and his colleagues was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Also on STATter911 …
- Injured PGFD firefighters honored by MD Rep. Donna Edwards. Kevin O’Toole returns to Bladensburg firehouse. – June 13, 2012
- DC Fire & EMS Department report on vacant house fire that injured five firefighters. Read entire report. – August 8, 2012
- MI firefighter alone inside house fire is burned. Incident brings up questions about Benton Harbor’s public safety officer model. – March 15, 2013
- Helmet-cam video: Rescue & fire attack at two-alarm St. Charles, Missouri apartment fire. – August 11, 2012
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