Fallen heroes: Kansas City mourns loss of two firefighters

Two firefighters were killed Monday night during a rescue operation at a burning building in Kansas City, Mo.

Keith Myers/The Kansas City Star/AP
Kansas City Fire Department Chief Paul Berardi talks during a news conference, Tuesday, about the two firefighters who died while fighting a large fire Monday night in Kansas City, Mo.

Two Kansas City firefighters are being remembered as heroes after they were crushed by a falling wall during a rescue on Monday.

The two were part of a team that responded to the massive fire that engulfed a building comprised of businesses and apartments on the city's northeast side.

According to Fire Chief Paul Berardi, the firefighters rescued at least two occupants of the building before the blaze ultimately took the lives of 17-year department veteran Larry Leggio and 13-year veteran John Mesh. Both Mr. Leggio and Mr. Mesh were married. Mesh leaves behind four young daughters, Berardi said.

"They did not die in vain," Berardi told KSHB-TV Monday night. "They saved two civilians, carried them out of the second floor on ladders, before the wall collapsed."

When the wall collapsed, it pushed debris out 30 feet from the building, trapping four firefighters, Berardi said. A rapid intervention team witnessed the collapse and pulled them from the rubble. Two other firefighters were hospitalized to be treated for injuries, he said. One has since been released and the other is expected to be able to go home soon.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those lost and injured and with their peers throughout KCFD," Berardi said, "the outpouring of condolences has been amazing."

Authorities said the cause of the fire remains unknown. A response team from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is expected to help with investigation into the cause of the fire, Berardi said.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James said his thoughts and prayers were on the firefighters.

"Unfortunately situations like this really bring home to all of us the dangers that firefighters and police officers confront every day," Mayor James said.

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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