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Thread: Two firefighters charged into the flaming building

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    Two firefighters charged into the flaming building

    ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Two firefighters charged into the flaming building to look for another who was lost in the confusion. But while their colleague found his own way out, the two who had tried to rescue him did not.

    By the time Derek Martin and Rob Morrison -- both 38-year-old married fathers -- were found in Friday night's four-alarm fire, it was too late to save them. They died later at a hospital.

    ``This is a real tragedy,'' Fire Chief Sherman George said Saturday, his voice cracking. ``Being the chief is like being a father to each of these individuals, and you suffer a great loss.''

    The fire broke out about 9:30 p.m. at Gravois Refrigeration Co., a brick, two-story building about two miles south of downtown. The cause was unknown.

    On Saturday, bouquets of flowers, a stuffed animal and small American flags had been placed outside the burned-out building as the city mourned the first St. Louis firefighters to die in the line of duty in a quarter-century.

    Twenty minutes into the hour-long battle with the blaze, someone turned up missing in a headcount and the two men were sent in to search, said fire department spokeswoman Kim Bacon. Minutes later, everyone was accounted for but Martin and Morisson.

    ``There have been citizens calling to see what they can do,'' Bacon said. ``Some are offering to take up collections for the families.''

    Martin and his wife had three children; Morrison was a married father of two.

    Investigators on Saturday were trying to pinpoint what sparked the blaze, which began after Gravois Refrigeration had closed for the night.

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    Rob Morrison

    Captain Rob Morrison
    Age: 38
    Hired: 1990
    Survived By: Wife, Laura, 8-year-old Megan and 11-year-old Matthew

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    Derek Martin

    Captain Derek Martin
    Age: 38
    Hired: 1990
    Survived By: Wife, Angela, 13-year-old Jordan, 11-year-old Denzel and 3-year-old Kayla

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    Flags at Half Staff in St. Louis

    Flags at Half Staff in St. Louis


    Courtesy KMOV-TV

    Flags fly at half staff, black bunting drapes area fire stations after two St. Louis firefighters were killed in a four-alarm fire on the city's south side Friday night. Two other firefighters were injured in the blaze.

    Derek Martin and Rob Morrison were the fallen firefighters. Both men were 38 years old and eleven year veterans with Rescue 1. Both men are survived by a wife and children.

    St. Louis Fire Chief Sherman George says Martin and Morrison had gone back into the burning building to try and rescue a fellow firefighter when they were trapped.

    The fire began at about 9:15 p.m. Friday at Gravois Refrigeration, located at the intersection of Gravois and Victor. It began in the two story building as a three-alarm blaze, but quickly raged out of control. Evacuation alarms sounded at about 9:30 and firefighters quickly evacuated the building. Witnesses say some firefighters were pulled out of the building and sustained minor injuries. During evacuation, it was discovered that four firefighters were missing and a frantic rescue operation began.

    Witnesses say one of the firefighters who was pulled from the building was having difficulty breathing. He had to be restrained from going back into the building to rescue his brother firefighters who were still trapped inside. Firefighters performed CPR on those who were pulled from the building.

    Quite a few firefighters knocked their way through a wall and a window on the roof of the building to get in and rescue one firefighter who was still trapped inside. At about 10:08 p.m., the trapped firefighter was pulled from the building. He had been trapped inside for about 20 minutes. His fellow firefighters administered CPR while on the extension ladder, attempting to revive him. He was rushed to a local hospital.

    After the fire was brought under control, the all clear signal was sounded. That is when dozens of fire fighters gathered in a large group to kneel in prayer for the injured men.

    Two other injured fire fighters were treated and released from a local hospital.

    There is no word on what may have sparked the fire. St. Louis homicide detectives were on the scene early on, ready to begin work at the scene.

    The St. Louis Fire Department has not lost a firefighter in the line of duty since 1977.

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    Crossed ladders

    Crossed ladders form an archway as the truck carrying the casket of fallen St. Louis firefighter Derek Martin moves in a funeral procession to the cemetery Thursday, May 9 in St. Louis

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    .

    A procession of firetrucks and firefighters escort the casket of fallen St. Louis firefighter Robert Morrison

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    young boy waives a flag

    A young boy waives a flag and wears a plastic fireman's helmet as the engine carrying the casket of fallen St. Louis firefighter Robert Morrison passes by him Wednesday, May 8.

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    ROBERT MORRISON; ST. LOUIS FIRE CAPTAIN

    A firetruck will carry the body of Capt. Robert B. Morrison when a funeral procession leaves Engine House 1 at Jefferson Avenue and Pestalozzi Street at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

    Capt. Morrison, 38, died early Saturday (May 4, 2002) at St. Louis University Hospital of injuries while battling a fire Friday at Gravois Refrigeration Co. Capt. Morrison, along with Capt. Derek Martin, were trying to rescue another firefighter from the blaze inside the building at 2239 Gravois Avenue. Both were promoted to captain posthumously Monday.

    Capt. Morrison, a native of Detroit, attended St. John's College in Winfield, Kan., where he met his wife, Laura Brewer Morrison. They married in 1987.

    After he earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Concordia College in Mequon, Wis., the couple moved to St. Louis, where Capt. Morrison worked briefly at Monsanto and then at the golf course in Forest Park.

    In 1990, he joined the St. Louis Fire Department, following in the footsteps of his wife's father, brother and uncle.

    When he wasn't on duty, Capt. Morrison served as a classroom aide at the Word of Life Preschool, St. Lucas campus, at 7100 Morganford Road, where the toddlers called him "Mr. Rob."

    Capt. Morrison enjoyed skiing, golf, camping in the New Mexico mountai ns and most of all being with his son and daughter.

    "The most important thing in his life were his kids," said his wife, Laura Morrison.

    The funeral procession will end at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 2650 Miami Street, where a funeral will be held at 11 a.m.

    Visitation for Capt. Morrison will be from 1 to 9 p.m. today at Hoffmeister Colonial Mortuary, 6464 Chippewa Street.

    In addition to his wife, among Capt. Morrison's survivors are a son, Matthew Morrison, and a daughter, Megan Morrison, both of St. Louis; his parents, Robert and Barbara Warren of Albuquerque, N.M.; a sister, Laura Farrisall of Albuquerque; and four brothers, Scott Morrison of Houston, Peter Morrison and James Morrison, both of Albuquerque, and Greg Christensen of Traverse City, Mich.

    In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Backstoppers, P.O. Box 7717, Chesterfield, Mo. 63006, or the St. Lucas Lutheran Church Building Fund, 7100 Morganford Road, St. Louis, Mo. 63116.
    ST. LOUIS DEATHS

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    TWO FIREMEN WHO DIED GAVE LIVES "TO PROTECT OTHERS";

    THEY WERE IN BURNING BUILDING SEARCHING FOR MISSING COLLEAGUE,

    While firetruck horns blasted outside calling for an evacuation, two firefighters with little air left in their packs continued to battle the black smoke engulfing a St. Louis refrigeration repair business on Friday night in an attempt to find a lost firefighter.

    Officials speculated that like the lost firefighter, Derek Martin and Robert "Rob" Morrison became disoriented amid the smoke and flames from the blaze at the Gravois Refrigeration Co.

    The lost firefighter reappeared later.

    Martin and Morrison died of burns and smoke inhalation.

    They were the first city of St. Louis firefighters to die in the line of duty in nearly a quarter-century. Both were 38, married, fathers, and 11-year veterans of the department.

    "These two gentlemen were heroes in every sense of the word," a somber Mayor Francis Slay said Saturday while visiting and grieving with members of the fallen firefighters' squad, Engine House No. 1 at South Jefferson Avenue and Pestalozzi Street.

    Investigators still don't know what sparked the blaze, which broke out about 9:30 p.m. in the two-story brick building at 2239 Gravois Avenue. Authorities have no reason to believe the fire was intentionally set, said Fire Chief Sherman George.

    Members of the St. Louis Fire Department gathered Saturday at the station to hug and cry while remembering their fallen friends. Others recovered the dead men's helmets - often considered a symbol of life and experience for firefighters - from the charred building.

    "It's just a horrible feeling," George said. "Each one of them feels like they lost their brothers. I feel like I lost my sons."

    George spoke at the fire station, where he arrived with Slay. They talked privately with the firefighters for about 20 minutes. After a news conference, they stayed and chatted with firefighters and visitors, who greeted each other with hugs.

    And tears. "I was supposed to take care of them. I was supposed to protect them," George said, wiping his eyes.

    Investigation begins

    For now, details about Friday night are sketchy.

    Investigators are reviewing statements from more than 40 firefighters and witnesses. They will piece together interviews and recordings of radio calls between firefighters to draft a minute-by-minute account of the evening.

    Investigators know Morrison and Martin were among the first firefighters into the building.

    At some point, one of the firefighters became disoriented in the heavy smoke. He called a "mayday" on the radio, George said.

    George said Morrison and Martin stayed inside the burning building even though their air tanks were nearly empty.

    Commanders outside, realizing that there were problems in the building, sounded a horn, which signaled those inside to evacuate so that they could regroup. A head count in the street showed three firefighters missing.

    Rescue crews went back into the building. They found Morrison unconscious about eight feet from the front door. Paramedics resuscitated him and took him to St. Louis University Medical Center, where he died early Saturday.

    Rescuers found Martin later deeper inside the building. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

    Two others were treated

    The firefighter Martin and Morrison were looking for was taken to Barnes-Jewish Hospital for smoke inhalation. He was treated and released Saturday morning. How he got out of the building isn't clear. Officials declined to release his name.

    Another firefighter, who suffered a leg injury, was also treated and released. A witness told reporters he saw that firefighter fall about 15 feet from a ladder on the east side of the building.

    Once the building was evacuated for the second time, fire officials put out the blaze in about an hour.

    Later in the night, firefighters gathered their equipment and prepared to leave the scene in a bus. Many lowered their heads and said little to their comrades.

    "You could see the hurt and pain on their faces," said a woman at the scene. "It didn't matter if they were black or white, they all felt a genuine sense of loss. It was like a member of their family had died."

    Before Friday, 163 men had died serving the city Fire Department. The most recent to die on duty was Howard Crider, who had a heart attack Nov. 24, 1977, at a house fire.

    George said firefighters had trouble moving through the building because the first floor had few walls to use as guides through the smoke.

    If a firefighter loses track of a doorway or window, he can become lost in the smoke even a few feet from safety, George said.

    Homicide detectives and the Police Department's bomb and arson squad are investigating along with the Fire Department.

    "We're not going to forget"

    The fire chief and the mayor also walked through the charred building Saturday and visited the Morrison and Martin families.

    Slay said he talked with Martin's older sons - Jordan and Denzel - to share his sympathy.

    "I told them their father gave his life to protect others," Slay said. "We're not going to forget that."

    Capt. Gary Ruffin, commander of Rescue Squad 1, said members of his squad were struggling with their grief. They met with counselors Friday evening.

    "We all know these things can happen," Ruffin said. "But we try not to dwell on the idea."

    Firefighters across the St. Louis area draped black shrouds over the doors of their stations.

    At Engine House No. 1, where the two men worked, visitors left flowers and notes as a memorial.

    Justin Powell, a firefighter with Central County Fire and Rescue in St. Charles County, brought a bouquet Saturday on behalf of his department.

    "We know the dangers getting into this," Powell said. "But this is sort of reality check."

    A memorial also appeared at the refrigeration company where visitors left flowers and toy Dalmatians.

    Chris Schotteos of Mehlville, who has operated the business since 1987, also toured the damage Saturday.

    "They're still digging through trying to figure out what happened," he said.

    Business served local grocers

    The 55-year-old refrigeration company, which serviced local supermarkets, occupied the first floor of the building. The second floor was empty, Schotteos said.

    Schotteos said he left the office Friday about 6:30 p.m. and had done nothing unusual that day. The company van, which was parked in the back of the building, also was ruined by the fire.

    The Backstoppers organization in St. Louis will assist the families of the fallen firefighters. For information about contributing, call 636-230-9898. Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 7717, Chesterfield, Mo. 63006.
    FIREFIGHTERS DIE IN BLAZE; Reporter Heather Ratcliffe: E-mail: hratcliffe@post-dispatch.com Phone: 618-659-3637

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    Martin, Derek

    Age: 38
    Rank: Captain
    Status: Career
    Incident Date: 05/03/2002
    Incident Time: 21:30
    Death Date: 05/03/2002

    Cause of Death: Caught or Trapped
    Nature of Death: Burns
    Emergency Duty: Yes
    Duty Type: Fireground Operations
    Activity Type: Search and Rescue
    Fixed Prop. Use: Industry

    Fire Dept. Info:
    St. Louis Fire Department
    1421 N. Jefferson
    St. Louis, Missouri 63106
    Chief: Sherman George

    Initial Summary:
    Capt. Martin, along with Capt. Robert Morrison also from the St. Louis Fire Department, died while trying to rescue a trapped firefighter inside of a burning two-story brick refrigeration company building. Memorial Fund: The Backstoppers organization in St. Louis will assist the families of the fallen firefighters. For more information about contributing, call 636-230-9898. Donations also can be mailed to PO Box 7717, Chesterfield, Missouri, 63006.


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1276

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    Morrison, Robert

    Age: 38
    Rank: Captain
    Status: Career
    Incident Date: 05/03/2002
    Incident Time: 21:30
    Death Date: 05/04/2002

    Cause of Death: Caught or Trapped
    Nature of Death: Burns
    Emergency Duty: Yes
    Duty Type: Fireground Operations
    Activity Type: Search and Rescue
    Fixed Prop. Use: Industry

    Fire Dept. Info:
    St. Louis Fire Department
    1421 N. Jefferson
    St. Louis, Missouri 63106
    Chief: Sherman George

    Initial Summary:
    Capt. Morrison, along with Capt. Derek Martin also from the St. Louis Fire Department, died while trying to rescue a trapped firefighter inside of a burning two-story brick refrigeration company building. Memorial Fund: The Backstoppers organization in St. Louis will assist the families of the fallen firefighters. For more information about contributing, call 636-230-9898. Donations also can be mailed to PO Box 7717, Chesterfield, Missouri, 63006.


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1277

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    AIR MASK THAT FIREMAN WORE FAILED TESTS, REPORT SAYS

    AIR MASK THAT FIREMAN WORE FAILED TESTS, REPORT SAYS

    Copyright 2003 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch...02/01/2003

    Heather Ratcliffe Of The Post-Dispatch

    * But St. Louis fire chief draws no conclusions yet from an examination of breathing units worn by two firefighters who died.

    St. Louis fire officials kept a promise Friday by releasing the result of an expert examination of air masks worn by two firefighters killed last year. But even Fire Chief Sherman George admitted he doesn't know yet what it means.

    The highly technical report concluded that one of the self-contained breathing units failed several tests performed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The other passed all requirements.

    George said the report did not say how the equipment might have contributed to the deaths of Robert Morrison and Derek Martin on May 3.

    "I just don't know what it means yet," George said. "This is NIOSH's report. We've just had a chance to read it, but we do not have enough information to analyze it."

    The breathing devices feed compressed air from a tank on a firefighter's back through a hose to a mask over his face. The report said one of them failed a "positive pressure" test and had a stuck "exhalation valve." It also said a light was not working on a gauge that tells how much air is left.

    There was no conclusion of whether the malfunctions occurred before its wearer died, or whether they contributed to his death. Neither the report nor the Fire Department would say which man wore the mask at issue.

    George said he released the 58-page document Friday to keep a pledge to be forthcoming about the investigation into the incident.

    Officials expect the safety institute to incorporate the study into a final investigative report about why the firefighters died. George said he did not know when that would be complete.

    Morrison and Martin, both of Rescue Squad 1, separately became trapped and died battling the fire at a Gravois Avenue storefront. A small gas leak was cited as the cause. Both men died of smoke inhalation.


    http://webpublisher.lexisnexis.com/i...J-00000-00&b=s

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