WASHINGTON PARK Two firefirefighters came within inches of having a burning structure collapse on them Monday morning as they battled an intense blaze in a vacant structure in the 5400 block of North 54th Street.
No one was injured.
Odell Smith, a two-year veteran of the Washington Park Fire Department, credited quick thinking and training to saving his life and the life of a fellow firefighter, Ken Perry.
Smith said a call reporting the fire came in to the department at 7:30 a.m.
“When we arrived, the two-story structure was fully involved on the inside,” Smith said. “And a lot of fire was hitting the house next door. We called for the Caseyville and State Park fire departments to back us up.”
Then, he and Washington Park firefighters, pulled the wooden front door to the structure down and saw there was no floor. Firefighters began attacking the fire from the outside, when suddenly the intense heat caused the house to collapse.
“If I would have thought for one second, you all might be talking to Chief (Raymond) Mix about my funeral,” Smith said.
And though he and Perry came close to death, Smith said: “God is always with me. That’s the only person I fear.”
Smith and Perry jumped from the burning porch and rolled to the ground.
“I pulled my mask off,” Smith said. “Then, I realized what I saw. I got up and began to fight the fire again…. The adrenaline that was pumping through me got me up and back to fighting the fire that I came to fight.”