Updated: 06-16-2003 04:26:07 PM

Two Memphis Firefighters Lost After Being Trapped in Mall Fire
Trio of Bravest Became Trapped in Multi-Alarm Blaze
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HEATHER CASPI and DAVE J. IANNONE
Firehouse.com News


Two Memphis firefighters lost their lives after they became trapped Sunday night inside a burning shopping center in the north section of the city, fire officials confirmed Monday.

Lt. Trent Kirk and Private Charles Zachary died after being pulled from a burning Family Dollar Store on North Watkins Street. The fire, dispatched at about 7:45 p.m. Sunday, quickly rose to three alarms and caused the building's roof to collapse while one firefighter was still trapped inside.

The firefighter, now identified as Kirk, was missing inside the building for an undetermined amount of time, Memphis Fire Department Communications Watch Commander Bill Adelman said early Monday morning.

"[The building] was not heavily involved on arrival but it got that way," Adelman said.

Three firefighters entered the strip mall about 10 minutes into the fire attack. Chief Jim Price said there was a report that someone might be inside, and the firefighters went in to search. "Things went bad when they were inside," Price said. "They became disoriented and went down."

Price said two firefighters were rescued but then the fire intensified and crews had to pull out. At that time the roof collapsed on the area where the third firefighter was located, and fire crews breached a wall to reach him. The rescuers were unable to reach Kirk until it was too late, despite their best efforts.

All three firefighters were transported to the Regional Medical Center at Memphis' Burn Unit, where Zachary was pronounced dead Monday morning.

The third firefighter was treated and released from the hospital Monday.

Kirk, 39, served the Memphis Fire Department for 11 years, and Zachary, 40, served the department for 19 years. Both firefighters had families with children, Price said. Price said funeral arrangements are still underway, but Kirk's funeral is being planned for Thursday morning. Further information will be released when it become available.

According to the city's radio feed, numerous units and command staff were being taken to a location to be debriefed.

Adelman said many of those family members and numerous on and off duty firefighters were waiting at the hospital Sunday night for word on the conditions of the victims. Hundreds of others had called area fire stations and the city's dispatch center.

"The department as a whole is very concerned about the welfare of those involved," Adelman said before hospital officials confirmed both of the firefighters had lost their lives. "We're praying for the best and that everybody will pull through."

Basic information about the incident was released at a press conference Monday afternoon, but Price said the department could not release further details because the incident is under investigation.

The last firefighter fatalities in Memphis were in 2000, when Lt. Javier Lerma, 41, the son of a Memphis firefighter who died battling a blaze in 1977, and Pvt. William Blakemore, 48, a firefighter who was working for a sick colleague, were shot and killed by another firefighter on the scene of domestic dispute.

About the Memphis Fire Department
The Memphis Fire Department is comprised of 1,696 paid firefighters staffing 53 fire stations.


photo
Michael McMullan/Memphis Commercial Appeal

Emergency crews and loved ones gather at The Med after several firefighters were brought in with injuries.


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