LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Three and a half months ago, Los Angeles Fire Capt. Victor Aguirre thought he was going to die.
“The blast exploded,” he said. “Next thing I know, we’re engulfed in flames, and I thought this is how I die.”
The explosion happened May 16 and injured 12 firefighters, including Aguirre, as they attempted to battle a blaze at a commercial building in downtown Los Angeles.
Aguirre’s bandaged hands are just about useless and he is still recovering from severe burns on much of his upper body.
“If I don’t push myself, it could get worse,” he said. “And so every day I have to push myself, stretch the skin to where it blisters or bleeds.”
Aguirre said he feels he cheated death twice — once while trying to escape from the inferno and again at the hospital where he said he believed God had allowed him one last chance to see his family.
“When they put me into the ICU, I was scared to close my eyes because I didn’t think I would wake up,” he said.
Aguirre’s wife and children were running errands as he and his crew were battling the flames that quickly grew out of control, sending them running down the ladder right as the explosion happened.
“Even when I tried to fight and fight, I just felt like I couldn’t get out of that fire,” he said. “I just remember praying, ‘Please stop.'”
Claudia, his wife, said she got the call saying that her husband had been badly hurt and they needed to get to the hospital immediately.
“That’s when you think, ‘Please God, give me wings, I need to fly down there,'” she said.
The couple said they were thankful to the medical staff, firefighters and the Gary Sinise Foundation’s First Responders Outreach program.
“I was blown away,” Aguirre said. “They’re real. They’re real, and it’s emotional. Just the work they do, they’re angels.”
The program purchased the Aguirre family a new air conditioning unit, which they said was vital for burn victims in helping them regulating body temperature.
As for his return to Fire Station 9, doctors said his recovery will take at least a year, but he’s hoping to be back in 10 months.
“It’s hard to explain, but it’s something I have to do,” he said.