MILTON, Ga. — Milton Fire Capt. John Cunningham is a fighter.
Cunningham spent fourteen days in Grady Hospital's Burn Unit for burns caused from an explosion in his Lawrenceville home on July 1.
"I was cleaning the ducts in the crawl space," he said, "and I slipped."
Cunningham said he grabbed the air conditioning unit's Freon line and it broke.
"It was quick," he said. "I went into fireman mode and basically 30 years of conditioning and training kicked in."
"I was burned on my side, my face, my hands and arms," Cunningham told reporters.
He said doctors took skin from his legs and used it on his arms.
"The graphs go to my elbows," he said.
Cunningham was in good spirits at his first visit to Milton's City Hall on Monday, July 22.
Friends and family gathered to greet the injured fire captain, who expressed appreciation for their support along with the medical team at Grady Hospital.
"Their support is the reason I'm doing so well right now," he said.
Longtime friend and fellow fireman Fred Barnes said everyone is amazed at how well Cunningham is doing.
"We knew the prognosis was good but for him to be progressing this quickly is just amazing."
Milton Fire Chief Robert Edgar said Barnes was at the hospital every day until Cunningham's release.
"Fred was by John's as soon as soon as he got the news," Edgar said. "They're a great example of the friendship and commitment to each other so many firemen share."
Barnes wife Karla said both Cunningham and his wife have been through a great deal but remain positive.
The fire caused significant damage to the house, leaving a hole in the wall, which has made burglarizing the property easy.
Since the fire, the home has been robbed twice.
"It's boarded up now, but the other day when the cleaning people were there, a man was in the attic and attacked a woman," Karla Barnes said.
"They lost four animals from the fire" she said, "and several items of sentimental value were taken or destroyed."
In spite of his injuries and their loss, Cunningham and his wife remain positive.
"I truly believe God was with him then and now," Fred Barnes said. "We've got a prayer chain that extends into several states and it's working."
Cunningham said it will be several months before he's back on normal duty, but is hopeful to be working in another capacity soon.
Chief Edgar already has plans for him.
Edgar said he would welcome Cunningham back as soon as he's cleared to return in any capacity.
"We use a records management system called Fire House and John is our in-house expert," he said.
Cunningham said he's looking forward to getting back to work as soon as possible.
This article appeared in the July 31 issue of the Milton Herald.