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West Peculiar firefighter killed while battling house fire: 'It’s just awful'

New Chuck McCormick
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West Peculiar firefighter killed in house fire
West Peculiar firefighter killed in house fire
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Posted at 1:29 PM, Jan 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-06 11:56:31-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A firefighter with the West Peculiar Fire Protection District died as a result of battling a house fire on Sunday.

Chuck McCormick, 30, had been working with the West Peculiar Fire Protection District for three weeks. He is survived by a wife and three children.

Fire crews were called to the scene at 22311 Deer Run Road shortly after 11 a.m., and officials said they believe the blaze began in the laundry room.

Family of the homeowners told 41 Action News that the homeowner's girlfriend called 911.

"She noticed when she was sitting at the dining room table right across was the laundry room, and there's flames coming up from the dryer," Melissa Coburn, the homeowner’s sister, said. "She started yelling at the kids, 'Get out of the house! Get out of the house! Get out of house!'"

Graham said that all of the occupants in the home escaped, and the home sustained structural damage. But the first crew at the scene from the West Peculiar Fire Protection District found itself in trouble, according to officials.

"[They] encountered quite a bit of fire, went inside the front door and the floor gave way," said Grandview Fire Chief Ron Graham, also serving as acting public information officer.

Area fire crews including Peculiar, Lee's Summit, Harrisonville, Pleasant Hill and Kansas City, responded to a mayday call at the home west of Peculiar.

"Get ready to go interior, we've got a firefighter search right now," a Cass County firefighter said on dispatch transmissions captured on Broadcastify.com.

Graham said the situation in the home progressed to the point where crews "couldn't get him out quick enough."

McCormick fell through the floor into the basement, according to officials, and sustained critical injuries. He was transported to Belton Regional Medical Center, where he later died, according to Graham.

"It reinforces, you know, how dangerous this job is no matter if it's a small fire or a big fire," Graham said.

The family that lost its home in the fire is, like so many in the community, devastated.

"It's just awful that that firefighter perished the way he did it," Coburn said. "We're trying to tell Mike [the homeowner] that, you know, he feels like it's his fault, and I was trying to tell him, 'You know, that's what they do--they run into the fire."

Area law enforcement and first responders already have begun showing support to their "fallen brother."

"We don't want them to, by any means, think that this is something that they're responsible for," Graham said. "This is part of our job. And we understand it when we do this, this can happen and we don't want them to feel like they're responsible [in] anyway for this."

Nationally, more than 60 firefighters died in 2018, according to research from the National Fire Protection Association, making 2018 the fifth consecutive year that deaths were less than 70 in a given year. Of the 64 firefighters who died, the report, "Firefighter Fatalities in the US - 2018," stated that 13 of those deaths occurred in structure fires. Causes of fatal injury or illness range from overexertion/stress to falls, which accounted for 3 percent of fatal injuries or illnesses in 2018.

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The Missouri Division of Fire Safety is assisting on the investigation and is working to determine how the fire began and what weakened the floor.

The American Red Cross and relatives are assisting the family that lost its home. A GoFundMe campaign also has been established.