St. Louis FF dead, another injured after house collapses during blaze

The two firefighters had been searching for victims and were about to exit the second floor at the time of the collapse


Note: This story has been updated following the identification of the firefighters involved. An earlier version is below. 

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis firefighter died Thursday and another was injured after a large house collapsed while the firefighters were searching to make sure no one was inside.

Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said the blaze broke out before noon at a 2 1/2-story structure in north St. Louis. It wasn't clear if the home was vacant, and because homeless people often stay in vacant houses to keep warm in the winter, firefighters went into the burning building.

The firefighters extinguished the blaze on the first floor and went to the second, but the flames there were so intense they decided to leave, Jenkerson said. As the two firefighters were about to exit the second floor, the roof and upper floor of the brick home collapsed on top of them.

The firefighter who died was identified as Benjamin Polson, who had been with the department since November 2019, fire officials said. 

Jenkerson said Polson "was trapped under a tremendous amount of debris until we dug him out."

The second firefighter was injured from the initial collapse and while trying to rescue Polson, Jenkerson said. His condition wasn't immediately known.

"We get paid to protect lives. We get paid to take a risk and, you know, it's hard to tell somebody on the street who is yelling and screaming at us that there might be someone in there, well this risk might be too great," Jenkerson said. "So we take the risk and unfortunately, terribly the risk we took today wasn't worth it. We lost a firefighter." 

The fire damaged several nearby homes. The cause has not been determined.

St. Louis city firefighters console one another after one of their own died in the collapse.
St. Louis city firefighters console one another after one of their own died in the collapse. (Photo/Daniel Shular/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Associated Press)


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The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis firefighter died Thursday and another was injured after a large house collapsed while the firefighters were searching to make sure no one was inside.

Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said the blaze broke out before noon at a 2 1/2-story structure in north St. Louis. It wasn't clear if the home was vacant, and because homeless people often stay in vacant houses to keep warm in the winter, firefighters went into the burning building.

The firefighters extinguished the blaze on the first floor and went to the second, but the flames there were so intense they decided to leave, Jenkerson said. As the two firefighters were about to exit the second floor, the roof and upper floor of the brick home collapsed on top of them.

"We had one firefighter that was gravely injured when the building collapsed on him," Jenkerson said of the firefighter who was killed. He said the firefighter "was trapped under a tremendous amount of debris until we dug him out."

The second firefighter was injured from the initial collapse and while trying to rescue his colleague, Jenkerson said. His condition wasn't immediately known.

Jenkerson didn't immediately release the name of either firefighter.

"We get paid to protect lives. We get paid to take a risk and, you know, it's hard to tell somebody on the street who is yelling and screaming at us that there might be someone in there, well this risk might be too great," Jenkerson said. "So we take the risk and unfortunately, terribly the risk we took today wasn't worth it. We lost a firefighter." 

The fire damaged several nearby homes. The cause has not been determined.

A firefighter reacts after a pile of bricks falls on him from a window eve as crews work to extinguish the fire in the structure near the corner of Hodiamont Avenue and Cote Brilliante Avenue in St. Louis, Mo., on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. 
A firefighter reacts after a pile of bricks falls on him from a window eve as crews work to extinguish the fire in the structure near the corner of Hodiamont Avenue and Cote Brilliante Avenue in St. Louis, Mo., on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.  (Photo/Colter Peterson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Associated Press)

 

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