BALTIMORE — Three Baltimore firefighters were killed and a fourth was injured when part of a vacant home collapsed while they were battling a blaze early Monday, the city’s fire chief said.
The Baltimore City Fire Department said in a tweet that firefighters were responding to a blaze at a three-story rowhome — located on the 200 block of South Stricker Street — when the four were trapped inside. Crews removed piles of debris to locate the firefighters, the department said.
Chief Niles R. Ford said in a news conference that injured firefighter John McMaster was pulled from the rowhome immediately and taken to the hospital, where he was listed in critical condition Monday afternoon. Dr. Thomas Scalea of Maryland Shock Trauma said McMaster is on life support.
“Fingers crossed that he’s going to make it and be just fine,” Scalea said. “It’s hard to know at this point.”
Two other firefighters were pronounced dead at the hospital, Ford said. The fourth trapped firefighter was pronounced dead at the scene, the chief said, his voice breaking at times. Ford identified the dead as Lt. Paul Butrim, firefighter/paramedic Kelsey Sadler and EMT/firefighter Kenny Lacayo.
Scalea said Sadler and Lacayo suffered cardiac arrest at the scene and couldn’t be resuscitated.
“Today, Baltimore has lost three of the bravest among us,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said. “Baltimore owes them the deepest gratitude and respect that we can offer anybody.”
Photographs from the scene showed firefighters being consoled by their comrades. Later, an excavator could be seen clearing the remaining debris, leaving a gap between two rowhouses.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott called it “a gut-wrenching tragedy” for the victims’ families, the fire department and the city of Baltimore.
“There are no words to describe the pain and the severity of the losses we have suffered today,” Scott said.
Three firefighters were injured battling a blaze at the same location in 2015, The Baltimore Sun reported.
On Facebook, the Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad paid tribute Monday afternoon to Lacayo, who was a “life member” of the squad: “His exceptional skills as a firefighter and paramedic were matched by his bright smile and his unfailing good nature,” they said.
“Tragically, this was one of those days where everything came together and unfortunately took the lives of several firefighters, including our beloved Kenny,” Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad Chief Mark Dempsey told NBC Washington.
“He came to the rescue squad shortly after graduation and he flourished here,” he said. “He became a firefighter, became a paramedic, was awarded paramedic of the year.”
“I’m not aware of anybody that didn’t love Kenny. When he became a fireman in Baltimore City, his nickname became Fireman Kenny, because that’s what his persona was. He was a fireman through and through.”
A GoFundMe campaign is seeking contributions to help Lacayo’s family.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday afternoon that flags around the state will be lowered to half-staff to honor the firefighters. “Each and every day, our firefighters and first responders answer the call and are ready to run into danger — this is our worst nightmare,” Hogan said in a statement.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been changed to include the rowhome’s address.
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