Milton firefighter injured in explosion out of hospital

by: Mike Petchenik Updated:

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MILTON, Ga. - A veteran Milton firefighter injured during an explosion at his home is out of the hospital and thanking those who supported him during his recovery.

Capt. John Cunningham told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik he was working on the air conditioning unit of his Lawrenceville home three weeks ago when he slipped and pulled out the freon line.

"The freon was expelling and it's like a one in a million shot, but it got to that perfect situation where it exploded," he said. "When it exploded, all my 30 years of experience in fire training kicked in."

Cunningham said he held his breath, shielded his face, then called for help. He said he then called his wife.

"Oh my God. If my wife sees this on the news, it's going to be bad," Cunningham said he thought to himself as adrenaline coursed through his veins.

Tammy Cunningham said she jokingly told her husband "not to blow up the house" when she left for work that morning, so when he called to say he'd blown up the house, she thought he was kidding.

"Then he said it again and I realized he wasn't kidding," she said.

The explosion burned about 25 percent of the veteran firefighter's body, he said, including his stomach and arms. He is wearing compression bandages over skin grafts. He said doctors at Grady Hospital predicted he'd have to stay in the burn unit for four to six weeks, but he was released after two.

"I'm so happy and so amazed at how well he's doing," said Tammy Cunningham. "Every day he started looking better."

Cunningham credits his quick recovery, in part, to firefighters from across Metro Atlanta and his colleagues in Milton who have been supporting his family during the ordeal.

"Funny thing about firemen. Day and night they're always firemen," he said, quoting a line from the movie "Back Draft." "That's the way it is."

Cunningham said he hopes to one day be back on a fire truck. He said doctors have told it him could be upwards of six months before that can happen.

"We have to go through a heat sensitivity test to go back to the fire service and he said it would be best if I waited until after that amount of time," he said of his doctor's orders.



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