Kelowna firefighter Chris Zimmerman, badly burned in a huge fire last weekend that destroyed an unfinished six-storey condominium building and a nearby residential motel, is recovering in hospital and doing better each day, says his father.
Gerry Zimmermann, the city’s well-known former fire chief and a former city councillor, told the Kelowna Capital News on Thursday his son has regained feeling in his burned hands and can move them, both encouraging signs.
“He’s doing better and better each day,” said Gerry.
“We were worried he could lose the use of his hands.”
Chris Zimmermann suffered burns to his hands, as well as to his back and his calves, while on the second floor of the under-construction second building at the Water’s Edge development in the Mission area of the city Saturday.
He was trying to find a way to safety out of the burning building for himself and three of his firefighter colleagues who were trapped on a third-storey balcony.
His father said the four had to descend by ladder through heavy black smoke to escape flames just before the building collapsed.
“Given the state of his hands, I have no idea how he did that,” said Gerry, adding when the ladder was placed against the building wall the smoke was so heavy, firefighters on the ground could not see it reached the third storey or not.
While in the building, the flames were pushed with such force that they burned between Chris’s protective fire coat and his back and down the back of his boots, burning him badly in both areas as well.
Gerry said in his long career as with the Kelowna Fire Department, he had not seen a firefighter as badly burned here as his son.
“I’m just so thankful he is doing better,” said Gerry.