Heroic Firefighter Returns to Work

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Investigators are still working to find out what caused the McClung warehouse fire in Downtown Knoxville in February and owner Mark Saroff is doing more to protect the site.

Saroff put a fence up this weekend completely around the warehouse to protect the scene while it's under investigation.

Meanwhile, the firefighter trapped inside the burning McClung warehouse returned back to the fire department for the first time Monday.

WVLT’s Kim Bedford was there as Firefighter Jeff Kindrick returned to the firehouse.

February 7, 2007, Firefighter Jeff Kindrick wasn't sure he'd make it out of the burning flames on the third floor of the McClung Warehouse.

"I think about that fire a lot,” Kindrick says.

"That short period of time when we thought we lost those firemen, that emotion, it's hard to describe to anybody,” says Captain Darrell Whitaker, KFD spokesman.

Nearly six months later, Kindrick makes an emotional return back to the fire department.

"It's something I've been waiting for, for a long time. I'm very happy to be back. It's good to see all the old faces,” says Kindrick.

Hanging with the guys is what Kindrick missed most during his recovery at home. "It was difficult, but I'm happy to be where I am and happy to have an opportunity to come back to work."

It's been a long road for the injured firefighter, nearly bedridden for the first three months. "I feel pretty much back to normal, except when I start doing real heavy tasks."

Kindrick's building up his strength to get back on the truck in August. "It's going to change the way I look at other guys on the fire scene."

It's been about six months since the McClung Warehouse burnt down, and every time Kindrick comes back here, this rubble is a reminder of when he was trapped inside.

"I think about how grateful I am that everybody that was involved didn't get hurt any worse than they did,” he says.

"That fire's going to remain in the hearts and minds of even our youngest firefighters that have been on recently,” says Captain Whitaker.

Kindrick says his 15-year-old son is the reason he strives to serve our community. "Everyday that I can wake up and see my son in the morning, that's a big bonus."

The fire department is happy to now have all the injured firefighters from the McClung fire back on the job.

They'll be getting their new fire truck Tuesday that should be ready some time in August.

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