Two firefighters were killed and two were injured in the collapse of a burning building in Kansas City Monday. Authorities said that the fire teams were able to save two people from the flames.
The Kansas City fire chief said that the two men were killed when a section of the burning building collapsed, sending a wall outward 30 feet and trapping the firefighters, New York Times reports. Two others were injured fighting the fire, which had apartments on the top floors and businesses on the ground floor.
Chief Paul Berardi said that the collapse occurred after the building had been evacuated. He said that the “evacuation was ordered at 7:52 p.m., and at approximately 8:07 p.m., a collapse was reported on the east side of the structure.”
Flames could be seen peeking from the rubble hours after the men were injured. It was not immediately clear what caused the mess of flames. An investigation is ongoing, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
“Initially it looked as if it was a backdraft, but it appears now that the second floor collapsed inside the structure forcing the smoke and fire out the front or the A side of the structure,” Berardi claimed. “And that smoke and fire was pushed out probably 20 to 30 feet. In addition to pushing the smoke out, it also pushed the east wall and it didn’t fall like a normal collapse. It was actually pushed out at least 30 feet.”
The 13-year veteran John Mesh and 17-year veteran Larry Leggio were the two firefighters who lost their lives. Both Leggio and Mesh were pronounced dead at Truman Medical Center just before 8:20 p.m. Leggio leaves a wife, mother and more behind, and Mesh leaves a wife and four daughters, fox4kc reports.
Berardi broke the news about Mesh and Leggio in tears. “Our hearts absolutely go out to the family; both to their peers who are grieving, but also their family members who are at the hospital now,” Berardi told reporters at the scene.
On Tuesday, Berardi said that the community’s compassion “has been amazing.” “I especially want to give thanks to KCPD and Truman Medical Center as well as all other partner agencies that work with us daily to serve Kansas City to protect the public,” he added.
The chief also promised to help the families as much as he can as they deal with these tragic losses. “The fire department family will help the families through. It will be a difficult month. This is the worst day,” Berardi said.
Berardi also made sure the families knew that the two firefighters did not die in vain and that he is “extremely proud” of the department’s professionalism.