Note: we are republishing this story which originally made the news in January 2022.
In a heart-wrenching event, Baltimore is grappling with the loss of three brave firefighters and another fighting for life after being trapped in a fierce fire inside a vacant home on Monday – a tragedy etched as one of the city’s deadliest.
The firefighters were inside a rowhouse in the New Southwest/Mount Clare neighborhood when the structure partially collapsed. Two were declared dead at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, identified as Lt. Paul Butrim, firefighter/paramedic Kelsey Sadler, and EMT/firefighter Kenny Lacayo. EMT/firefighter John McMaster remains in the hospital. The collective 44 years of service these heroes offered to the department make their sacrifice even more poignant.
Mayor Brandon Scott expressed the city’s gratitude, acknowledging, “Baltimore owes them the deepest gratitude and respect.” Fire Chief Niles Ford, visibly emotional, referred to the fallen and injured firefighters as part of his family, vowing to honor their bravery and courage.
The tragic incident unfolded early Monday morning when firefighters responded to a vacant structure, the site of a previous fire in 2015. While inside, the building unexpectedly collapsed, trapping them. One firefighter was swiftly rescued, but it took an hour to extract two others.
Dr. Thomas Scalea of Maryland Shock Trauma revealed that Sadler and Lacayo suffered cardiac arrests at the fire scene, proving unrecoverable. McMaster remains on life support, with the potential for worsening injuries. Scalea stressed the vigilant monitoring of his condition.
Despite the valiant efforts of these firefighters, the severity of the blaze proved overwhelming. Fire Chief Niles Ford explained their decision to enter the vacant rowhouse, citing an adjacent occupied home that needed protection. The determination was made believing they could control and extinguish the fire.
Lt. Paul Butrim’s history of heroism, notably saving a child from a burning apartment in 2015, showcases the dedication these firefighters had to their duty. Kenny Lacayo, remembered as a top responder and exceptional paramedic, leaves a void that resonates among fellow volunteers.
This tragic event stands as a rarity for Baltimore, which hadn’t experienced a firefighter loss since 2014. The incident raises concerns about vacant properties, a persistent challenge in a city with approximately 16,000 vacant homes. Calls for reforms and preventative measures become crucial to avoid such devastating incidents.
As Baltimore mourns this profound loss, the memories of these firefighters will endure, serving as a reminder of the sacrifices made by those who protect our communities. The incident sheds light on the challenges faced by firefighters and the pressing need for reforms to ensure their safety while safeguarding against the risks posed by vacant properties.