A Grandview firefighter used an 8-foot hooked pole to pull a trapped colleague to safety this week.
A pile of plaster from a building’s ceiling had fallen on a fire captain who had been trying to find a second-floor resident. He issued a “mayday” call, firefighter language for “man down.”
The rescue was part of the drama associated with the fast-moving Grandview fire on Monday morning that killed one person, displaced eight and left the trapped firefighter with second-degree burns.
Several second-floor apartment tenants got out before firefighters arrived at 822 Main St.
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But firefighters learned that someone was still in a second-floor southeast corner apartment, said Grandview Fire Chief Ron Graham.
A crew climbed a flight of stairs toward the apartment and encountered fire, heat and smoke.
“As soon as they knocked that down, the ceiling above them gave way,” Graham said.
It trapped the fire captain beneath a jumbled mass of plaster and wire mesh.
“He couldn’t free himself,” Graham said.
The driver of a Grandview Fire Department ladder truck was positioning the vehicle near the building’s southeast corner when he heard the mayday call. He eased the tip of the truck’s extended ladder just beneath a second-floor window.
He ran up the ladder and started yelling for the fire captain, who couldn’t see through the smoke but could hear the calls, Graham said.
The ladder driver took an 8-foot “pike” pole — a firefighting tool with a hook on the end — and stuck it into the building where the captain could reach it, Graham said. The ladder driver yelled for the captain to grab hold of the pole, and the driver pulled him out the window and onto the ladder.
“We were ready to send in a rescue crew,” Graham said.
Four businesses occupied the building’s first floor, including two beauty salons and the Grandview offices of MaidPro, a residential cleaning company.
Cory Siron, MaidPro office manager, didn’t realize anything was wrong Monday morning until she noticed a white truck stopped on Grandview Road just outside her office about 10 a.m.
“Usually this street is very busy,” Siron said. “But this driver of this truck had stopped and was yelling, ‘Get out. Get out of the building right now,’ ” she said.
Siron said five minutes later might have been too late.
On Tuesday afternoon, Grandview investigators said the fire began in the building’s southeast attic area, above the second-floor apartments. Although the fire’s cause may have been related to the building’s electrical wiring, they said, it remained undetermined and also was being considered “non-criminal.”
The victim, whose name had not been released Tuesday afternoon, had lived in the apartment at least 15 years, Kevin Verhulst, the building’s owner, said Tuesday morning as he, Siron and others watched investigators sift through debris in the victim’s apartment.
The eight displaced tenants received food, shelter and — in one case — prescription medications from the American Red Cross in Kansas City, said Duane Hallock, the agency’s regional communications director.
The building’s smoke detectors were working, Graham said.