Mpls. Fire Captain back to work after year of rehab

6:46 PM, May 18, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - It was a year ago this month, Captain Kathrynne Baumtrog was severely injured in a church fire over Memorial Day weekend.

After intense rehab, three surgeries, and a number of skin grafts she is back on the job as of this past week.

"It's like being home," said Baumtrog. But she still thinks about what happened to her, it's hard not to.

She sees the burns on her arms everyday she puts on her uniform.

It was on a rainy Sunday night over the Memorial Day weekend last year when lightning had just struck Walker Community United Methodist Church.

"It took us 15 minutes to find the attic access," she recalled of the century old building.

Once she and her team did find the attic, they also found smoke but unlike what people were seeing outside, not a lot of flames.

That changed quickly when she saw fire glowing through cracks in the walls, which she thought she could control with her mobile water tank.

"That's where I thought, it's here already. That was fast," she said when a river of fire raged all around her.

While other fire fighters were with her, she was in more of a remote area of the attic.

She remembers a large flow of fire engulf her.

"I am not going to die in this church," she said. "I remember thinking that; I am not going to die here."

She bailed away from the heat, trying to feel her way to the exit. She knew she was severely burned, and with her radio melted, she started screaming for help.

"Eventually I was found by another fire fighter," she remembered. That fire fighter was her husband, Captain Paul Bamtrog. "We got to the bottom of the stairs and her partner says Kathrynne didn't come with us," he said.

Baumtrog rushed back to look for his wife, finding her near the exit on the ground.

"I told her we got to crawl and get out of here," he said. They made it out, and so did the other fighter fighters.

Paul Baumtrog suffered burns to his hands. And three other fire fighters suffered injuries, as well, but no one more badly that Kathrynne Baumtrog.

She had third degree burns on 25-percent of her body, including on her ears and arms. She spent 22 days in the hospital. Not to mention countless hours in rehab. Despite all that, this Iraq War veteran is glad to be back to work.

"I think I am capable of doing the job right now and I still have it in me," she said. She has spent time with other burn victims, working through both the physical and emotional scarring.

Her husband doesn't feel like a hero, in fact he believes Kathrynne would have made it out on her own, especially since she's been in tough spots before while serving in combat situations for the military.

"But his mother-in-law gives him free dinner and thanks all the time," said Kathrynne with a smile. And despite their jokes, that day almost a year ago will always stay with this fire fighting couple. "It's definitely an experience we've gone through together," she said.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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