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Thread: Two Memphis Firefighters Lost After Being Trapped in Mall Fire

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    Two Memphis Firefighters Lost After Being Trapped in Mall Fire

    Two Memphis Firefighters Lost After Being Trapped in Mall Fire
    Trio of Bravest Became Trapped in Multi-Alarm Blaze

    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.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...4&sectionId=39

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    Zachary, Charles

    Age: 39
    Rank: Private
    Status: Career
    Incident Date: 06/15/2003
    Incident Time: 21:00
    Death Date: 06/15/2003

    Cause of Death: Caught or Trapped
    Nature of Death: Burns
    Emergency Duty: Yes
    Duty Type: Fireground Operations
    Activity Type: Advancing Hose Lines/Fire Attack
    Fixed Prop. Use: Store/Office

    Fire Dept. Info:
    City of Memphis Fire Department
    4341 O K Robertson Road
    Memphis, Tennessee 38127

    Initial Summary:
    Private Zachary died from injuries received when he became trapped inside of a burning Family Dollar store.

    Memorial Fund Info: Pending

    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1417

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    Kirk, Trent A

    Age: 39
    Rank: Lieutenant
    Status: Career
    Incident Date: 06/15/2003
    Incident Time: 21:00
    Death Date: 06/15/2003

    Cause of Death: Caught or Trapped
    Nature of Death: Burns
    Emergency Duty: Yes
    Duty Type: Fireground Operations
    Activity Type: Advancing Hose Lines/Fire Attack
    Fixed Prop. Use: Store/Office

    Fire Dept. Info:
    City of Memphis Fire Department
    4341 O K Robertson Road
    Memphis, Tennessee 38127
    Chief: Director Chester Anderson

    Initial Summary:
    Lieutenant Kirk died from injuries received when he became trapped inside of a burning Family Dollar store.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    Pending

    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1416

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    Memphis Firefighters Died as Heroes

    Memphis Firefighters Died as Heroes
    Bravest Entered Building to Search for Reported Trapped Occupants

    CHRIS CONLEY

    MEMPHIS -- Two firefighters died braving fire and smoke in a three-alarm fire at a Frayser business, believing they were going in to save trapped civilians, fire officials said Monday.

    However, reports that people were inside the burning Family Dollar store at 3732 Watkins proved untrue.

    As both experienced firefighters searched for victims Sunday night, a portion of the roof collapsed, trapping them.

    Lt. Trent Kirk, an 11-year Fire Department veteran, died inside the store after urging other firefighters to retreat.

    It was several hours after the collapse that a rescue team knocked a hole in the north wall of the building to pull him out.

    Firefighter Charles Zachary, a 19-year veteran, was pulled from the blaze after 15 minutes, Fire Director Chester Anderson said. He died of his injuries early Monday.

    A third firefighter, identified as Timothy Scott, was treated and released for injuries Sunday night.

    "There was nothing any individual firefighter could have done," Anderson said.

    The 911 calls to the Fire Department "reported a possible rescue situation," Anderson said. "The reason they went in . . . was that possibly there was someone in the building," he said.

    The two fallen firefighters were among the first to arrive at the fire about 7:45 p.m. and formed a team of several that went inside to search for victims, Anderson said.

    Because the back entrances were barred, the firefighters had to attack from the front. The team made its way to the back of the store, where they encountered intense heat, Deputy Director Claude Talford said.

    They were able to beat back the fire and Kirk advised the other firefighters to get out.

    But as parts of the roof started to fall the firefighters apparently became disoriented. Everyone got out except Kirk and Zachary.

    It's unclear how firefighters were able to rescue Zachary. But they were unable to explore the store in search of Kirk because of its unstable nature.

    "We could not take a chance of anyone else getting maimed or killed," Talford said.

    "The roof had collapsed. Personnel were trapped. There was a lot of fire inside," said Talford.

    A Fire Department investigation into the cause and origin of the fire began Monday.

    This morning, they will be joined by investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and other agencies.

    Memphis ATF agent in charge Gene Marquez said his agency was bringing in its top investigators.

    The one-story flat roof building held various sorts of flammables, including clothes and aerosol products, officials said.

    In addition to conducting witness interviews, investigators will be looking for signs of an accelerant.

    Investigators will also be reviewing dispatch tapes to see why the firefighters believed someone was trapped in the building when they arrived.

    In a press conference Monday, Anderson said the losses left firefighters across the city shaken. Some were allowed to go home Sunday night and counseling sessions were held Monday.

    It was particularly hard for "the ones that work with them every day, and know their wives and children," Anderson said.

    Firefighters felt "emptiness," he said. "They have lost one of their own."

    The business opened in 1998 and passed all electrical, mechanical, building and plumbing inspections, said Allen Medlock of the Memphis and Shelby County Construction Code Enforcement office.

    He said the building likely had a metal truss roof construction, which warps and collapses under high heat.

    Though they are legal, he said, "there are better types of construction."


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...0&sectionId=39

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    LT. TRENT KIRK

    Age 39; firefighter since 1992

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    PVT. CHARLES ZACHARY

    Age 39; firefighter since 1984

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    Proud, Sad Rituals Will Take Two Heroes on Final Journeys

    Updated: 06-19-2003 02:15:04 AM

    Proud, Sad Rituals Will Take Two Heroes on Final Journeys

    ............
    LAURA COLEMAN NOETH
    Reprinted with Permission, The Commercial Appeal


    Funeral Coverage Note: GoMemphis.com and wreg.com will feature live coverage of the funeral processions for the two slain firefighters shortly before the services at 10 a.m. and at 3 p.m. Visit their sites for direct links.

    MEMPHIS -- From the placement of the flowers to the playing of the bagpipes to the 21-gun salutes, it has to be perfect today.

    And it has to be perfect twice.

    With that in mind, Jason Stevens spent Wednesday double-checking details, making last-minute checks with families and hoping that he and scores of other firefighters had done their best to be sure their two fallen comrades' funerals provide the utmost in honor and dignity.

    At 10 a.m., thousands are expected to fill Bellevue Baptist Church for the funeral of Lt. Trent Kirk, 39, who died Sunday night when the roof of the Family Dollar Store in Frayser collapsed.

    At 3 p.m., many of those mourners will return to the church to honor Pvt. Charles Zachary, also 39, who died early Monday morning of injuries from the fire.

    "It's a huge job, and it's doubled," said Stevens, the Memphis Fire Department battalion chief whose job includes coordinating funerals for firefighters killed on the job.

    "There's a reward in honoring these firefighters the way they should be honored for their service to the citizens," Stevens said. "We try to do our best to honor them and their families; that's very important to us."

    It took more than 100 firefighters to tackle Sunday night's fire, and it took the same number to plan the two funerals.

    The work began Monday, when committees were formed to help the families, arrange for traffic control, contact other fire departments and perform dozens of other tasks.

    The city will have its normal fire coverage, Stevens said, because all of its stations must be fully staffed.

    Attending two funerals in one day will be especially difficult for the firefighters, Stevens acknowledged, but he said they were scheduled the same day so that firefighters on the victims' shifts could attend.

    The department has protocol for such services, said Stevens. It's used to guide families as they make decisions about rituals to include.

    Among them are honor guards to stand at attention while the caskets and the victims' families are led in and out of the church, the 21-gun salute at the cemeteries and the order in which participants are seated.

    Added to those will be one tradition that has moved Memphians as they drive near the funeral procession route. Aerial firetrucks will be positioned at several major intersections, their ladders extended to form an arch, with U.S. flags hanging from them.

    And fire officials say residents should feel free to express themselves.

    "It means a great deal to us to travel in a procession and see people stop, get out of their cars and watch," said Watch Cmdr. Bill Adelman.

    About 20 departments outside Memphis will have trucks along the procession routes, and Adelman estimated that at least 1,000 firefighters from across the country will attend.

    At Holliday's Flowers in Bartlett on Wednesday, florists were busy arranging sprays for the funerals. The requested colors were red and white, said owner Judy Long.

    As she arranged gladiolas, roses and lilies, she thought about the people for whom the flowers were ordered.

    "It makes you think of the loss, the incredible loss for the families and for the city," she said.

    For Stevens, Adelman and other firefighters, helping the victims' families and planning the funerals take priority over their own grief.

    "Your entire existence is placed on hold when this happens," Adelman said. "There is nothing more important than making sure these fallen firefighters are honored properly."

    Tonight, when it's all over, Stevens will do what his fellow firefighters have been doing all week.

    "That's when I'll have my chance to start grieving

    A. J. Wolfe/Commercial Appeal

    For firefighters, it's a time to mourn, and cover their badges with black bands.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...5&sectionId=39


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    Store Manager Charged in Deadly Memphis Blaze

    Store Manager Charged in Deadly Memphis Blaze
    Two Firefighters Lost Their Lives Searching for Reportedly Trapped Occupants



    CHRIS CONLEY
    The Commercial Appeal


    MEMPHIS -- A young store manager firefighters were trying to save lit the fire that killed them, investigators said Tuesday.

    Federal prosecutors charged Anthony Paul Shaw, manager of the Family Dollar store in Frayser, with starting the Sunday night fire that killed two Memphis firefighters to hide his theft of several thousand dollars from the store safe.

    Authorities said Shaw, 21, admitted to the crime during a second interview late Monday.

    Lt. Trent Kirk and Pvt. Charles Zachary, both 39, died of injuries suffered when the store roof collapsed.

    If convicted, Shaw could face life in prison or the death sentence, U.S. Atty. Terry Harris said.

    The U.S. Department of Justice will determine whether the government should seek the death penalty, Harris said.

    The International Association of Fire Fighters, which represents 260,000 firefighters around the country, sent a letter to U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft Tuesday, urging him to seek the death penalty.

    Shaw was named in a criminal complaint Tuesday morning and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Allen mid-afternoon.

    Wearing sandals, knee-length shorts and a dark T-shirt, Shaw sat in a jury box surrounded by U.S. marshals. He told Allen his family was trying to hire an attorney.

    He was held without bond and will have a hearing later this week.

    The fallen firefighters, and others who escaped safely, thought the store's manager was trapped and went in to get him, Harris said.

    However, Harris would not say how firefighters got that information.

    The night of the fire, Shaw told investigators he was the last to leave the store, according to a sworn statement by federal Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) special agent Brian Weeks.

    Shaw also told investigators in the initial interview that he hadn't deposited Saturday's receipts and that he had trouble closing the safe door because of the amount of cash.

    "Shaw was the last person to leave the store prior to the fire," according to Weeks's affidavit.

    "Shaw stated that prior to leaving the store he had to apply pressure with his foot to get the safe door locked due to the large amount of cash."

    The door was open when the safe was recovered, according to investigators.

    There was no money inside and no burned paper or ashes. All that remained in the safe, they said, were a few rolls of pennies.

    In a second interview Monday night, according to the charges, Shaw said he stole the money and set the fire. Shaw said he then locked the front door and left, according to the charges.

    Shaw admitted to taking several thousand dollars from the safe, Harris said. He wouldn't say whether the stolen money was found.

    Federal authorities, however, executed a search warrant of Shaw's home Tuesday.

    Shaw has no known criminal record.

    The fire "was designed to cover a theft," said Memphis Fire Department Director Chester Anderson, but led to the deaths of the two firefighters.

    "This is an arson investigation . . . that will turn into a murder investigation," Anderson said.

    Anderson commended rescuers who located four firefighters who, like Kirk and Zachary, were caught inside the building after the ceiling collapsed.

    Many of the firefighters who responded to the Dollar Store fire attended a press conference at the Fire Department training campus, Anderson said.

    "We've got to get healed and move on," he said.

    Lt. Mark Hudgins, a member of the first company to arrive at the fire, and a friend to both victims said "valiant (rescue) efforts were made . . . we did all we could."

    Fellow firefighters are "talking about the good times, the good, not the bad," he said.

    Though authorities have Shaw's statement, much remains to be done to build a case, said Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Memphis and Nashville ATF offices.

    A team of federal, city and state forensic experts and accelerant-sniffing dogs will sift through the debris for evidence of how and where the fire started.

    Cavanaugh hailed firefighters' heroism and backed the decision to enter the building.

    "Firefighters were told there was a person inside . . . there was no other decision to be made," Cavanaugh said.

    As soon as structural engineers deem the burned building safe, investigators will begin gathering evidence, according to Joe Riehl, agent in charge of the ATF National Response Team, a group of highly trained arson and explosives experts.

    Investigators brought heavy equipment to the burned-out building Tuesday to begin pulling away the roof and a large air-conditioning unit that hung precariously.

    "We are going to go down to the floor and clean everything out . . . with a fine-toothed comb," Riehl said.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=39&id=13007

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    Tennessee LODD Widow Files $6.5M Lawsuit; Memphis FD, SCBA Manufactured Named

    Lt. Trent Kirk and Pvt. Charles Zachary Were Killed In A June 15, 2003 Arson Fire


    Associated Press

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- The widow of a firefighter who died in an arson fire at a Family Dollar store has filed a $6.5 million wrongful death lawsuit against the store, the Memphis Fire Department and the maker of a self-contained breathing apparatus.

    Lt. Trent Kirk and Pvt. Charles Zachary, both 39, were killed June 15, 2003, after rushing into the burning store where a civilian was wrongly believed to be trapped inside. Kirk died at the scene from extensive burns, while Zachary died from smoke inhalation the next day.

    Anthony Paul Shaw, a manager of the store, is charged with setting the blaze. He is awaiting trial on federal arson charges in which a public safety officer died. If convicted, he will face life in prison or death.

    In the lawsuit filed in Circuit Court, Donna Kirk said her husband's death resulted in part from the store's inadequate staffing and inaccurate floor plan; an ineffective radio communication system and rescue plan by the fire department; and an inaccurate 30-minute rating on a German-manufactured air tank.

    According to the suit, the Dragerwerk company should have cautioned that the tank would provide air for about 10 minutes for a firefighter of Kirk's size, 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds.

    Authorities say the fire was set by Shaw to cover up the theft of money from the store's safe.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...5&sectionId=39

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