Injured Modesto firefighter back on the job

Big hugs and a warm reception met Modesto firefighter Jim Adams on his first day back to work after a devastating accident in January.

“My life will never be the same. To come back here to start working again ... it’s just normalizing my life,” Adams told well-wishers at Modesto Fire Station No. 1 this morning.

Adams suffered second- and third-degree burns on nearly half his body while fighting a fire at a home in North Modesto on Jan. 1.

He and firefighter J.D. Clevenger were on top of a burning home in the 2300 Block of Coston Avenue preparing to cut a hole in the roof for ventilation. The roof collapsed beneath the firefighters and the two fell inside.

Reflecting on the incident, Clevenger said, “That night, searching for (Adams), thinking that I lost him and that I wasn’t going to see him I was not going to have him around, was horrible.”

Clevenger suffered third-degree burns over 10 percent of his body in the accident. He spent 17 days in the hospital before returning to light duty March 22 and full duty about a month later.

Adams was kept medically sedated for 21 days, underwent several skin grafts and received extensive treatment.

He spent a week in the rehabilitation unit at the University of California Medical Center in Sacramento, where he underwent rigorous physical therapy and treatment before he was sent home to recuperate Feb. 22.

He has had four surgeries and continues to wear pressure garments to promote recovery.

“The average individual wouldn’t come back this soon,” Fire Chief Mike Kraus said. “He’s got remarkable constitution and a positive outlook on life. If anyone could come back from this it would be Jim.”

Until Adams can return to active duty, he’ll perform administrative tasks and work on a presentation that will detail what went wrong the night of his accident.

The information will be shared with firefighters across the state in order to improve safety.

Raw video from Jan. 1 fire