Tulsa Firefighter Injured In January House Fire Back On The Job
TULSA, Oklahoma - A Tulsa firefighter injured fighting a house fire on New Year's Day has returned to work. Tulsa Fire says firefighter James O'Neal was back on duty on Monday.
James O'Neal is back in the fire house at Station 19, less than two months after he was pulled out of a fire, unconscious.
O'Neal says he feels good, despite suffering some lung damage, but says the best feeling is being back serving the department - and the citizens of Tulsa.
"And that routine back of being a firefighter, because that's all I've ever wanted to do," O'Neal said.
Firefighters are trained to be careful as they rush into danger - but O'Neal almost lost his life New Year's Eve.
A small house fire - set by an arsonist - turned more dangerous than usual when O'Neal's breathing equipment apparently failed.
He was on his knees, searching the smoke filled house. His captain, right alongside, realized he was in trouble and made the Mayday call.
Sean VanWagner was the driver on the truck that day.
"And there's no more urgent call, never anticipated hearing one in my career," VanWagner said.
VanWagner says for firefighters, who consider their coworkers family - it was a frightening scene.
"Not good. He was completely lifeless and still. He came out with people holding all his limbs and he was motionless," he said.
O'Neal can't remember much about that day - but he won't forget his buddies who saved his life.
"Very thankful for what they've done and I want them to know, I'd do it for them," O'Neal said.
The investigation into what happened with the equipment is ongoing - and the department isn't sure if it failed.
The arsonist who started the fire has not been found - and there's a reward for information that leads to an arrest.