Baltimore firefighter John McMaster, who was injured in Monday’s building collapse that killed three other firefighters, was released Thursday from University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
McMaster was one of four firefighters who entered a burning rowhome around 6 a.m. Monday in the 200 block of S. Stricker St. The vacant building collapsed soon after and trapped McMaster, Lt. Paul Butrim, Kelsey Sadler and Kenny Lacayo.
McMaster was rescued quickly sent to Shock Trauma in critical condition but stabilized by Tuesday. He returned home Thursday.
“It was fantastic to see (McMaster) walking, up and around, out of the hospital and on the mend doing better,” said Battalion Chief Josh Fannon, president of the Baltimore Fire Officers Association. “We just wanted to be there to support him and be by his side as he gets better.”
Sadler and Lacayo were removed from the debris about an hour after McMaster and were taken to Shock Trauma, where they were pronounced dead. Butrim was extracted from the rubble around 3 p.m. He died at the fire scene.
A procession of fire engines and ambulances escorted Butrim, Sadler and Lacayo’s bodies Wednesday from the chief medical examiner’s office in Baltimore to funeral homes in Bel Air and Dundalk. Volunteer and career fire companies from neighboring districts gathered on overpasses and lined up along Route 34 and Wise Avenue to honor the fallen firefighters.
“The outpouring of support leaves you speechless and proud,” said Battalion Chief David Goldman, secretary and treasurer of the Baltimore Fire Officers Association, of the procession. “It’s very emotional.”
Chief Niles Ford posthumously promoted Sadler, a firefighter and paramedic who was working as acting lieutenant of Engine 14 during Monday’s fire, to the rank of lieutenant Thursday, the city fire department’s union announced. The posthumous promotion is the first of its kind in Baltimore City, Fannon said. The rank brings a higher salary and increased death benefits for Sadler’s family.
A memorial service for the fallen firefighters is slated for Wednesday, Feb. 2 at the Baltimore Convention Center at 10 a.m., according to the union representing city firefighters. From there, the firefighters will be transported to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium with a wake to follow at the Maryland State Fairgrounds.
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Viewings for Sadler and Lacayo are scheduled for Feb. 1 from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at Duda-Ruck Funeral Home in Dundalk. Viewings for Butrim are taking place on Feb. 3 from 3 to 8 p.m. and Feb. 4 from 9 a.m. to noon at Schimunek Funeral Home in Bel Air.
Sadler, Lacayo, who was also a paramedic, and McMaster, who is also an EMT, were members of Station 14, located on Hollins Street and one of the busiest firehouses in the city. Engine 14 was the first to travel the half-mile from the station to S. Stricker Street in Southwest Baltimore’s Mt. Clare neighborhood and arrive at the three-story home consumed in flames Monday morning.
First responders were told there may be a person trapped inside the dwelling fire, according to Fannon and a Broadcastify radio stream of the fire dispatch. Broadcastify streams live audio of radio transmissions by police and fire departments. About two minutes after Sadler tells a dispatcher she’s on the scene, another firefighter reports the house has collapsed and calls “mayday,” a code for a life-threatening situation.
“If we have a report of people trapped and we’re able to do so, then we’re going to make an interior attack to try to get to that victim, and seconds count. They really do,” said Fannon, referring to a tactic to extinguish a fire from inside a building.
Six years prior to Monday’s tragedy, three firefighters were injured battling a blaze at the same Stricker Street property. In that incident, firefighters found heavy smoke and flames coming from the first floor and used a chainsaw to cut through the ceiling of the third floor. One firefighter was taken away in a stretcher with injuries that were not life-threatening.
An investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing, said Blair Adams, a fire department spokeswoman. State and federal agencies are assisting the investigation, including the State Fire Marshal, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Baltimore field division, and the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. The assisting agencies can provide more resources for an investigation, such as an accelerant and explosives-detecting K9 seen sniffing the fire scene Wednesday.
Adams said investigators can’t predict how long the investigation will take and no causes have been ruled out.