Chief: 3 Baltimore firefighters killed in vacant house blaze

APTOPIX_Vacant_Home_Fire_47667 People embrace one another after a deceased firefighter was put into an ambulance after being pulled out of a collapsed building while battling a two-alarm fire at a vacant row home, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, in Baltimore. Officials said several firefighters died during the blaze.
APTOPIX_Vacant_Home_Fire_54716 A Baltimore firefighter holds balloons given to him by neighbor Darlene Cucina as a group of fire officials sit on a stoop across the street where several firefighters died in a building collapse while battling a two-alarm blaze in a vacant row home, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, in Baltimore.
Vacant_Home_Fire_49411 Firefighters embrace each other after a deceased firefighter was pulled out of a building collapse while battling a two-alarm fire in a vacant row home, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, in Baltimore. Officials said several firefighters died during the blaze.
Vacant_Home_Fire_97091 Firefighters salute as an ambulance carries a deceased firefighter after they were pulled out of a collapsed building while battling a two-alarm fire at a vacant row home, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, in Baltimore. Officials said several firefighters died during the blaze.
Vacant_Home_Fire_66145 A fire official looks through a hole in a wall as officials try to retrieve the body of a deceased firefighter trapped in a building collapse while battling a two-alarm fire in a vacant row home, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, in Baltimore.
Vacant_Home_Fire_23352 Firefighters bow their heads as a prayer is said after one of their own who died while battling a two-alarm fire in a vacant row home was pulled from the collapsed building, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, in Baltimore. Officials said several firefighters died during the blaze.
Vacant_Home_Fire_54394 A firefighter, left of center, salutes as others look on as the body of a firefighter who died while battling a two-alarm fire in a vacant row home is loaded into an ambulance, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, in Baltimore. Officials said several firefighters died during the blaze.
Vacant_Home_Fire_17007 Baltimore City firefighters embrace at the scene of a vacant row house fire in Baltimore, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.
Vacant_Home_Fire_11380 Baltimore City firefighters work to free firefighters trapped after a partial collapse during a fire in a vacant row house fire in Baltimore, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.
Vacant_Home_Fire_16753 Baltimore City firefighters work to free firefighters trapped after a partial collapse during a fire in a vacant row house fire in Baltimore, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.
Vacant_Home_Fire_37913 An investigator with the Maryland State Fire Marshal's office documents the scene of a vacant row house fire in Baltimore, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.
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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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