Central Florida firefighter shares recovery journey after being trapped in massive church fire

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — An Orange County firefighter is recovering after he suffered second and third-degree burns on the job.


Only Channel 9 spoke with Lieutenant Kelvin Vargas at his home as he continues to get better.

Orange County Fire Rescue said Vargas was part of the team responding to the fire at the Center Arena church on Aug. 22.

Luckily, no one was killed in the fire, but Vargas was separated from his crew and trapped inside after the church’s roof collapsed.

“It was the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Vargas said. “I’m thinking about the people I would leave behind, like my son.”

Read: Orange County firefighter trapped by collapsing roof as church destroyed by massive blaze

Vargas was rescued but spent 11 days in the hospital recovering before he was allowed back home.

“I didn’t feel my legs being burned, but I definitely felt the wrists-- It was the hottest I’ve ever been and the most intense pain that I’ve ever felt,” said Vargas.

Vargas said other firefighters have been a significant support in the weeks since. They’ve brought him meals, offered to cut his grass, and even set up this GoFundMe page.  

Read: Hurricane Lee intensifies from Category 2 to Category 4 storm; Tropical Storm Margot forms

Vargas will be readmitted to ORMC later this week, where he’ll undergo additional treatment for his burns.

He is on workers’ compensation and says it’s likely a long recovery road ahead. But he’s eager to be back on the job.

“I love what I do-- and yeah, I just can’t wait to get back,” said Vargas.

Read: Hoo’s there? Winter Park firefighters rescue owl stuck in roof rack

Click here to download our free news, weather and smart TV apps. And click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.