Firefighter dies battling blaze in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS — A firefighter died Thursday while responding to a fire in St. Louis, Chief Dennis Jenkerson said.

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Authorities responded to a report of a blaze in a two-and-a-half story building on the 5900 block of Cote Brilliante around noon, according to fire officials. First responders reported heavy fire showing through the second floor and went in to search for people who might have been trapped inside.

Jenkerson said that at some point, firefighters determined that the fire was getting too intense and made the decision to back out.

“As they were backing out, the third floor … the roof area totally collapsed, burying the two entry firefighters,” Jenkerson said. “We had one firefighter that was gravely injured when the building collapsed on him. He was buried (and) took the brunt of the collapse to his person.”

The chief said the injured firefighter later died.

“(He) was killed by the debris, the way it looks,” Jenkerson said. “He was trapped under a tremendous amount of debris for some time, until we dug him out.”

The chief said the second firefighter, who was transported to a hospital after the collapse, was injured while trying to get the first injured firefighter out from under the debris.

“With a collapse like this, there’s a lot of heavy timber, a lot of bricks. We’ve got multiple chimneys,” Jenkerson said. “Anytime you have this amount of bricks and building collapse on you, it’s not good.”

The chief praised firefighters on the scene for “working tremendously” to free the injured firefighter.

“Once these things come down, they normally don’t give you a warning. These are old buildings here. … There’s a lot of weight, a lot of heavy timber,” he said. “Trying to move this amount of weight, this amount of bricks, just with your bare hands is a feat in itself.”

It remained unclear Thursday afternoon whether anyone was inside the house, though Jenkerson said that there were indications it may have been occupied.

“This building had bars on the windows, bars on the doors, and normally when a building like this is unoccupied, those bars are gone pretty quick,” he said. “They’re used for scrap. So, it looks like this building was occupied.”

He declined to release more information about the firefighter who died in Thursday’s collapse, citing the need to notify his family. He added that the fire department is like “a huge family.”

“There’s a lot of relationships on the inside that are involved here, from, you know, sons to fathers,” he said. “This kind of event weighs just tremendously heavy on the entire department -- the chiefs, the deputy chiefs, me. It just, there’s a lot of internal relationships that make this just terrible. It’s just a terrible situation.

“There’s no word to describe what the feeling is right now amongst the St. Louis Fire Department.”

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire. Jenkerson said the home involved was a total loss.

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