After severe burns in condo blaze, firefighter back on the job

Back on job in burns' wake

More than two years after he was injured during a catastrophic blaze, Kelowna firefighter Chris Zimmermann is back on the job.

Zimmermann suffered second-degree burns on his legs, back, ear and hands while fighting a blaze at the Water's Edge construction site July 8, 2017. He spent more than a week in hospital, and more than two years recuperating and rehabilitating.

During Monday's council meeting, Coun. Mohini Singh told her colleagues Zimmermann completed all of his tests and recently returned to work.

Zimmermann was one of dozens of firefighters sent to fight the blaze that destroyed the partially built condo building. A construction worker had been applying decking material with a torch when the flames got away from him and ran up the side of the building.

Zimmermann led a crew of firefighters into the structure after an initial attack from the outside. But conditions changed dramatically, dropping heavy smoke onto them.

Searching for a way out, he explored a stairwell and saw smoke below him, being sucked farther down.

As he prepared to put out a mayday call, an explosion struck, Zimmermann recalled several months later.

“I went up flying into the air, and I think I hit the roof as I went up, and it drove me back down on the stairs,” he said. “I kind of thought I was finished at that point.

“Everything just went orange at that point, everything was on fire, my gear was on fire, and I just got up and hauled as fast as I could.”

With the help of crews on the ground, the four men were safely rescued from the building just moments before it collapsed.

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