Firefighter returns to duty after traumatic brain injury in accident


After sustaining a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident five years ago, it seemed as if Jimi King’s dream of becoming a full-time firefighter vanished in an instant.

Doctors at St. Anthony’s Hospital, who had at first given him just a 1% chance of surviving the crash, were slightly more hopeful after King came out of a four-day coma. Even so, he’d need to endure three months of rehabilitation at Craig Hospital, teaching himself how to walk, talk and eat again before he could even think about setting long-term life goals.

But when King was discharged in December of 2017, he went after firefighting with the same determination that made him a star pitcher at Green Mountain High School, described during his senior year by The Denver Post as a “hard-throwing lefty.” He returned to volunteer firefighting for the Timberline Fire Protection District, where he had begun a year prior to the accident, and achieved his ultimate dream last May when Timberline, which is based in Blackhawk and serves Gilpin and parts of Boulder counties, hired him full time.

“I felt like the first few years after the accident were just tests of all different varieties, from physical therapy tests to reading tests to fire tests to EMT tests to driving tests,” said King, 31. “It just felt like life was tests. It was very, very hard. Not just hard, but things that would break some people.”

He was undeterred, though, because of “an internal desire to be better and have things completed, make family and friends proud.” In fact, he also got through EMT school, something he had begun to pursue a few days before the accident.

“That, in and of itself, was pretty incredible considering the extent of the accident,” said Timberline chief Paul Ondr. “I was at the hospital shortly after his accident. To see him today is absolutely unbelievable. That story should be a huge motivation for lots of people, especially people who went through what he went through.”

Jimi King serves the Timberline Fire Protection District, working from a firehouse in Black Hawk. In 2017, King suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident, but he is living his dream now as a full-time firefighter. (Kathryn Scott, special to The Denver Post)

King’s drive to become a fulltime firefighter began when he was a scholarship pitcher for Northeastern Junior College in Sterling. He went through the fire science program there and then got a job operating heavy equipment for a construction company. Later he moved to Blackhawk and began volunteering with Timberline FPD, hoping for a full-time position to open up.

Then came the accident, on Sept. 3, 2017. King hit a median, upended the motorcycle and hit his head. He wasn’t wearing a helmet, something he now sternly admonishes in others.

“They didn’t know if he would walk or talk or be in a wheelchair forever,” said his mother, Beckie DiMauro. “As he was getting better, learning how to walk and talk, and it looked like he was going to walk and go home without the wheelchair, he really wanted to pursue his firefighting and his EMT.

“We all felt successful that he lived, that he was able to pass the fire academy and be a volunteer, not knowing if he would ever achieve paid status. He achieved what they didn’t think he would achieve. Extremely proud of the hard work he put in, in Craig and since Craig,” she added.

His time at Craig was filled with long, grueling days. And he had no memory of the accident.

“It was like being in school again,” King said. “I had to wake up and it was a full day of classes that were exhausting, mentally and physically.”

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