Stricken Rhode Island Firefighter Recovering

Updated: 03-29-2006 09:16:17 AM

MARK ARSENAULT, Journal Staff Writer
The Providence Journal (Rhode Island)

Kenneth E. Baker collapsed at the scene of a Providence house fire early Friday.

PROVIDENCE - Two days after suffering a heart attack and collapsing without a pulse at the scene of a Silver Lake house fire, firefighter Kenneth E. Baker regained consciousness and began talking yesterday afternoon in the intensive care unit at Rhode Island Hospital, according to Paul A. Doughty, president of the city's firefighters union.

"He is conscious now," Doughty said last evening. "There was a collective sigh of relief. He has a long road ahead of him, but we're encouraged."

Baker, 50 -- a firefighter for 14 years -- remained in intensive care in critical condition last evening, according to a hospital spokesperson.

Baker collapsed while staffing the pump on Engine 6 at an early-morning fire on Ralph Street on Friday. Firefighters, who had quickly put out the small bathroom fire, swarmed to help Baker.

They rushed him into an ambulance and performed CPR. Capt. Brian Jackvony, one of the firefighters who worked on Baker, said on Friday that Baker had no pulse in the ambulance.

Emergency staff at the hospital restarted his heart, but Baker did not immediately wake up. His family and a number of firefighters kept a vigil at the hospital while Baker was unconscious.

Fire Chief David Costa said on Friday that Baker had high levels of cyanide in his system and had received a chemical antidote. Cyanide gas is produced when certain materials burn, such as foam and plastics; the poison can cause suffocation by preventing the body from obtaining oxygen from the blood.

Costa said last night, "We're all still praying for him for a speedy recovery, but it is excellent news."

Doughty said last night that he had spoken with Baker yesterday; he did not want to describe the "emotional" conversation in any detail.

"The good news is that he is conscious and things are looking better for him," Doughty said, speaking cautiously because he did not have a prognosis from Baker's doctor.

With reports from Amanda Milkovits. / (401) 277-7231