Baltimore firefighters shared more about what happened inside a burning house when it collapsed on top of four firefighters, killing three of them.
Baltimore firefighters shared more about what happened inside a house fire when it fell on four firefighters, killing three of them.
Three people were trapped under hundreds of pounds of debris and one was still alive when his colleagues reached him.
Battalion Commander Christopher Hutson could not recall a deadlier firefighting day in his nearly 25-year career. Three members of Engine 14, whom he referred to as “his people,” were among the dead.
“You really can’t prepare for… the total collapse of the inside. The roof to the 3rd floor, 2nd floor, this 1st floor. Because they were operating on the first floor when this happened,” Hutson said.
Firefighters Kenny Lacayo, Kelsey Sadler and Lieutenant Paul Butrim were essentially buried by the burning roof, timber, drywall and framing when the entire structure gave way on South Stricker Street, Hutson said.
“I spoke to someone who was right there with Kenny and he was pretty badly buried from the waist down. And he was talking, but they couldn’t get him out. They couldn’t get him out,” Hutson said.
Lacayo recently took a job at Engine 14, after more than 10 years fighting fires in Wheaton, Maryland. He’s experienced and has been awarded awards for his bravery, but Hutson says there’s little anyone can do to rescue Lacayo or his co-workers when the house burns around them.
“He was just there. Just so you know… it took them an extra hour to get him and Kelsey out. And it took… 10 hours to get Paul Butrim out. They had to demolish the house to get Paul out, he was buried too deep in the basement,” Hutson said.
A fire collision is one of the most dangerous situations a firefighter can face.
“It’s very dangerous. And it’s not uncommon for a trapped firefighter to be talking and people not being able to reach them. There was a fireman in Frederick, Maryland, who came across by chance. You just can’t get to them no matter what you do. You’re going to have to have a water tower bursting over the flames and have a foundation there to get them out,” said Jay Gruber, of the Wheaton Fire Department.
The team may not have known that there was a fire at the same structure in 2015, which may have compromised its structural integrity. But Hutson said the neighborhood was prone to frequent fires, as crews responded to fires just two days earlier a block.
“They were unaware of the structural instability in that row house. They are doing what they were trained to do, and they are doing what they want to do. Firefighters ran to danger, and that’s what they did. And, they gave their lives and they lost their lives doing it,” Gruber said.
Gruber worked with Lacayo after he joined the Wheaton Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter in 2011 and worked his way up to becoming a firefighter and later a paramedic. He describes Lacayo as someone who is passionate about helping others and dedicates 110% to the work he loves.
Friends and family set up a GoFundMe . page in his honor to help cover the final costs.
“I think Kenny has a calling ability, plus, he loves helping people. And I think that’s a reflection of who he is. And you know, that friendliness and magnetism and that charisma he really has turned into his desire to help others. And he just loves helping others. He was amused; He loves the ability to make a difference. And he’s part of a family at the Wheaton Rescue Team. It’s a family and we’re his family,” Gruber said.
Firefighter John McMaster, who Hutson believes was working overtime at the time of the fire, was recovering in hospital.
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