SFD: 'Fireball' hits firefighter while entering apartment

A "fireball" hit a firefighter as he tried to rescue a couple from their burning apartment. KREM 2 Whitney Ward has more on what happened. (9/8/16)

A fire at a North Spokane apartment complex killed two people Wednesday afternoon. Officials said the blaze was hotter than most other fires.

Wednesday, fire officials explained how one of their men was hurt as he tried to rescue two people inside the Rosewood Club Apartments on Magnesium Road.

Firefighters said the heat from the fire blew the glass out of a rear sliding glass door and allowed a lot of oxygen to get inside. When firefighters opened the front door to get in, it caused what is called a “flash over.”

“As he’s leaning over and grabbing that victim and pulling, the fire came over the top of him,” explained Brian Schaeffer, the Spokane Fire information officer. He said the gear firefighter Chuck McKenzie took a beating, but saved his life.

“The helmet shield is completely melted,” said Schaeffer. “The discoloration, the seams actually separated.”

The firefighter survived the blaze, though the two victims inside did not make it. McKenzie, as of Thursday, was in the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and scheduled for surgery.

RELATED: Firefighter injured in N. Spokane apartment fire

Schaeffer said McKenzie continued to work, searching for the second victim in the apartment, even after he was burned.

After getting out of the fire, McKenzie’s personal protective gear continued to steam and separate.

“He had so much adrenaline and energy at that point,” said Schaeffer. “I don’t think the pain had really started to hit him.

Officials said the two victims in the fire were likely dead long before firefighters made it inside the apartment, though a good Samaritan did try to help save them. That man, Antoney Jones, also helped people evacuate before firefighters got there and saved four family pets.

RELATED: Good Samaritan helps evacuate N. Spokane apartment during fire

The apartment build did not have a sprinkler system installed to help fight the fire before emergency responders got there.

“If a protected system would have been in this building then we wouldn't have this [news] conference and there wouldn't be a firefighter in Harbor View and the fire would have been kept in check,” Schaeffer said on Thursday.

He said the complex had been grandfathered in when sprinkler systems became required by law. Schaeffer mentioned he thinks it is hard to believe it is 2016 and not all buildings have sprinklers in them.

KREM 2 reached out to the apartment complex to see if they planned to add sprinklers after this incident and the company responded with a statement.

“We express our deepest condolences for those affected, both directly and indirectly, by this unfortunate accident. Including the loss of life of the two members of our community,” wrote a Rosewood Club Apartments spokesperson in the release.

The apartment complex spokesperson also thanked the fire department and first responders. They also stated their main priority is to help the families affected from the fire and “any other additions will be made at a later date.”

(© 2016 KREM)


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