Injured Firefighters Speak With Reporters

Communications Director

Eric Vreeland
evreeland@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-3480

400 Main St., Room 654A
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Injured Firefighters Speak With Reporters

Posted: 02/13/2007
Five of the six Knoxville firefighters injured in two recent fires spoke with reporters Tuesday afternoon at the KFD administrative offices.

Capt. Jeff Lee; Capt. Joe Lee; Senior Firefighter Kevin Andrews; Master Firefighter James Rickett and Firefighter Gary Ellis talked about their injuries, the recovery process each is going through and their desire to return to work.

The sixth man, firefighter Jeff Kindrick, 43, has left the hospital and is recovering at home but was unable to be at the press conference.

''I'd rather go into a fire than face these guys," Rickett joked before the press conference began.

Capt. Jeff Lee, Josh Lee with Capt. Joe Lee, Senior Firefighter Kevin Andrews, Master Firefighter James Rickett and Firefighter Gary Ellis spoke to reporters. The Lees, who are brothers, Kindrick and Andrews were all hurt in the Feb. 7, McClung Warehouse blaze.

Andrews suffered a knee injury during the fire but was able to return to work earlier monday.

The Lee brothers and Kindrick were trapped in one of the buildings and ultimately used a fire hose to escape from a third floor window.

All three firefighters suffered burns and Kindrick also suffered back injuries when he fell part of the way during his escape.

Jeff Lee, 34, said that at one point he and his Joe, 36, brother were at the window watching firefighters outside who were trying to reach them.

"I remember looking at Joe and making the comment, 'This is a pretty bad situation isn't it?' and he said, 'It's pretty bad,' '' Lee said.

Both men, who are Christians, said they relied on their faith and stayed calm during the ordeal.

Lee said the KFD sometimes goes long periods of times without anyone getting hurt and the recent spate of injuries wasn't the result of anything anyone did wrong.

"Its just circumstances," he said. "We knew firefighting was a dangerous job when we signed up for it."  Rickett and Ellis were hurt fighting a Jan. 29, fire on the third floor of Townview Towers.

Ellis, 37, suffered burns to his head and face and said his recovery is going well.

Rickett, also 37, suffered severe burns to his hands and burns to his head and neck, "and my pride was hurt" he joked.

The injuries to his hands required skin grants, though Rickett said his recovering is also progressing.

He said he may be able to return to light duty by the end of the month but it will be several months before he can respond to fires again.

"I would go back to work tomorrow if I could," Rickett said, adding he was just glad to be back together with the other four men.

KFD Captain Darrell Whitaker said the group of men talked together long after the press conference ended.

"They are really enjoying being with each other and…it's lifted their spirits to be with the guys again," Whitaker said.

He said the injured men, as well as everyone else in the Knoxville Fire Department, looks forward to Kindrick's return.