KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Thirty-two recruits became Knoxville firefighters Wednesday night at a special graduation ceremony. One member of that class has some special experience on the job.
Jeff Kindrick was injured in the 2007 McClung Warehouse fire. He was looking for a few of his fellow firefighters who were in the building when he had to jump from the third floor. Soon after, one of the walls collapsed.
Kindrick ended up breaking his back and transitioned into the nuclear industry. Kindrick is now returning to the job.
He says recovery was hard, but he always knew he’d make it back.
“This is my family, the department is my home and in a larger sense, Knoxville, East Tennessee is my home. I don’t belong anywhere else,” said Kindrick.
According to policy, he couldn’t just race out again with his turn-outs on and fight a fire after feeling better. He had to prove it by going through the 16-week academy again.
“All of his certifications, as long as he kept them current, which I believe he did, but we require no matter how much experience you have we always require you to go through out academy. We just feel that’s the proper thing to do,” said Deputy Chief Mark Morris.
“The brothers and sisters here at the Knoxville Fire Department have been more of a family to me than anyone else in my life. And this department and this city is my home and they’re my family,” he said.
Morris says he’s seen firefighters come back to the department, but it’s usually because they took time off. He’s never seen someone come back with an injury like Kindrick’s.
Kindrick is one of several firefighters who will be on the job as soon as Sunday while others will now seek their EMT licenses.