A Spokane firefighter is recovering from second and third-degree burns he suffered trying to rescue two victims of a deadly apartment fire in North Spokane
Charles McKenzie, 29, is recovering from burns to his left hand and arm at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, but was able to talk Thursday about what happened.
“Went in, tried to get them out, didn't work,” McKenzie, who has been with the Spokane Fire Department for about a year, said. “That's what sucks about this job is when you can't make the save, but it's what we do, so we'll do it again tomorrow."
Firefighters say a passerby also tried to save the people trapped in their apartment before firefighters arrived on scene and the outcome of the fire could've been worse.
“We're very hurt we lost two people in this fire, but the building was occupied it could have been much worse,” Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said.
Schaeffer credited Antony Jones, who spotted the fire before anyone called 911, for his quick thinking and action to try and help.
“Actually went to the second floor, found that people were trapped in the apartment, he broke down the door himself, tried to make the rescue himself, was pushed back by heat, realized he couldn't make entry into that apartment unit then went very methodically to all these apartments, rescued two dogs, two cats himself and then alerted everybody to the fire even before the fire even was turned into 911. Truly a hero,” Schaeffer said.
McKenzie also tried to save the victims inside the apartment, but was badly injured by the 1000-degree flames.
“Firefighter McKenzie was on his hands and knees and he was pulling the victim, so as he was pulling the victim the fire came over the top of him,” Schaeffer said.
Firefighters say they believe McKenzie's recovery won't be easy but eventually will be successful.
Fire officials have called McKenzie's actions an incredible act of bravery. But McKenzie doesn't see himself as a hero.
"Every guy here is going to do the same thing I did, every guy here is going to make the same attempt I did. I just happened to get burned," he said.
Schaeffer says their firefighting equipment is meant to withstand fires around 300 degrees. He says this fire was closer to 1,000 degrees.
"This was not a regular fire. This was an incredibly intense fire," Schaeffer said.
McKenzie says the risk of injury is all just part of the job. He says he's now ready to get back to work.
"I'll be okay, and I'll do it again tomorrow," he said.
Apartment resident Laura Cole, who was evacuated from another building in the complex, said she's grateful for the work all of the crews involved that kept her safe Wednesday.
“They risk their lives everyday and it's important to remember that,” Cole said.
Firefighters say this was an accidental fire, started either from smoking materials or an overloaded power strip. Because of the age of the building there were no fire sprinklers in the apartments but everyone in the building is required to have fire insurance. 18 apartments were damaged by the fire.