Injured Modesto firefighter returns to full duty today

Last month, Modesto firefighter J.D. Clevenger said he was eager to return to active duty.

"I can't wait to cut another hole in a roof," the 32-year-old said during an interview with The Bee. "The smell of a two-stroke (chain saw) engine will get me over this."

He could get that opportunity as early as today, when he returns to full duty for the first time since the New Year's Day fire that left Clevenger and fire engineer James Adams with severe burns.

After spending nearly a month on light duty, Clevenger's doctors removed all restrictions and he was scheduled to begin his first shift back at 7 a.m. He'll return to the same truck -- No. 5 -- that Adams drove to the fire that day and hopes to drive again someday.

As Clevenger and Adams, 46, prepared to cut a hole in the garage roof of a home on Coston Way in Modesto, the roof caved in.

Both men fell about 10 feet into the inferno. Clevenger couldn't find Adams among the clutter and chaos, and had to chop his way to safety.

Other firefighters had to restrain him from going back into the home to find Adams, who had been trapped beneath burning debris and got the worst of it.

Clevenger received third- degree burns over 10 percent of his body. He returned to light duty March 22 after spending 17 days in the hospital, including time in the burn unit at the University of California Medical Center in Sacramento.

"Now, my son (2-year-old Conner) points at anybody's butt and says, 'Daddy's owie!' " Clevenger said during an interview in March.

Adams suffered third-degree burns over 45 percent of his body and spent 53 days in the hospital before being released this month. He is at home in Calaveras County, facing months of rehabilitation before he'll know whether he can return to work.