For the first time, four St. Charles firefighters who were trapped in a burning home are speaking out.

February 23, 2016 - KSDK Casey Nolen, KSDK

ST. CHARLES, MO. - All four eventually crawled their way to a window - escaping what investigators would later say had a 97% chance of fatality.

"I thought for sure that was it," says Kirchoff who remembers crawling and groping his way to the window not sure he would find a way out.

The department is now using what they learned fighting the fire to train other departments about the dangerous of wind-driven fires that were once thought to only occur in high rise buildings.

But with fast burning synthetic furnishings firefighters say strong winds can cause typical house fires to "flash-over" faster and more dangerously.

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August 3, 2015 - KSDK

ST. CHARLES, MO. - The St. Charles police and fire departments responded to a garage fire near the intersection of North 4th and Tecumseh streets early Sunday Morning. According to Mike Myers with the St. Charles Fire Department, the fire was in a detached garage. No one was injured. Heather De Mian

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July 26, 2015 - KSDK By PJ Randhawa, KSDK-TV

ST. CHARLES, MO. - Brad Piece was only 27 years only when he died of a heart attack while on duty for the St. Charles City Fire Department. After the theft of a memorial in his honor, the neighborhood united through social media this week to make sure his legacy was safe.

After the sudden death of her son 15 years ago, Sally Pierce and her husband found a small comfort in memorializing him at their home.

"After he passed, my husband found this statue and put it up. And then he passed away in 06," said Sally Pierce.

Monday night, Sally noticed the statue was gone. She began posting signs around the neighborhood, hopeful it was nearby.

"Every day i missed it. It was hard. Hard to look out here," said Pierce.

Across the street, another person touched by Pierce's legacy took notice. The story of Pierce's tragic death was one Nathan Schnelle heard about often as he began training as a fire fighter.

"What he was doing when he passed away was training for the Firefighter Combat Challenge which I've taken part in over the past five years. Brad's not here to take care of his mom so the brotherhood continues and we're all here to take care of what they're not around for," said Schnelle.

Within six hours of Schnelle posting the sign on his Facebook page, he had a lead.

"Somebody said they had something that matched the description that was thrown in their yard at about 3 in the morning," said Schnelle.

The statue was just three miles from Sally's home. Now safely reinstalled as a tribute to her son, and a memory of her late husband, Sally says the outpouring of support since the memorial's theft has been emotional.

"There's such a bond. There was such a bond after he passed. Still is after all these years," said Pierce.

Both believe the statue was stolen by neighborhood kids who perhaps didn't realize exactly how much it meant.

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Four firefighters at St. Charles Fire Station #5 have recently or will soon become fathers. The firefighters pose with their families at Fire Station #5 on Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in St. Charles. From left, Dave and Michelle Seithel of Columbia, Mo., Tyler and Lindsey Beauchamp of Clarksville with Kannyn, 2, and Kyndrik, 1 week, Joe and Natalie Gragnani of Oakville with Olive, 2 weeks, and Adam and Jen Solomon of St. Louis with Waylon, one month. Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com

June 21, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Susan Weich

ST. CHARLES - For three firefighters at Engine House 5, sleep is a rare thing - and not just because they work at the busiest station in the city.

Adam Solomon, Joe Gragnani and Tyler Beauchamp are new fathers. Waylon Paul Solomon was born May 22, Olive Caroline Gragnani arrived June 3 and Kyndrik Rainier Beauchamp was born June 11.

The births are just in time for Father's Day.

"In the past I've celebrated the day by looking up to my father, and now I realize that the day's also about me; it's definitely a cool change," Gragnani said.

The firefighters have no explanation for the baby boom other than it reflects a crop of younger hires at the department who are ready to start families.

Still they say it's unusual for three of the 15 who work out of the firehouse to have babies so close to each other.

"It was funny; I told the guys we were having a baby, and one of them said, 'I may as well tell you, my wife and I are expecting too,' and it just kept coming," Gragnani said.

And another from the firehouse is on the way. David Seithel and his wife, Michelle, are expecting in August.

All of the men are first-time fathers except for Beauchamp, who has another daughter, Kannyn, who will be 2 next month.

The three who've already had their babies said having a support group at the firehouse has helped not only through their wives' pregnancies but with questions about caring for a newborn.

A lot of the children of the veteran firefighters are in college, so there's a generation gap when it comes to handing out that type of advice, the men said.

"They've got experience, but at the same time a lot has changed," said Beauchamp. "We have these fancy gadgets, and they're kind of impressed with some of the stuff we have to take care of our kids."

The pregnancies definitely have altered the typical firehouse chats about sports or hunting.

"Joe and I have been talking about breast-feeding, swaddling babies or how much sleep we got the night before," said Beauchamp. "But really, it blends right into the conversation about the baseball game."

The firefighters are on duty for two days straight, so having the support of family and friends is especially important, they said.

"I move away from my family 48 hours at a time, so with a young child at home, it's hard for me to be a lot of help to my wife, Lindsey, other than moral support over the phone," Beauchamp said. "You almost feel helpless sometimes when you're at work, and you can't be there physically."

The backing the men get extends to other members of their department, too.

Solomon said when his wife, Jen, went into labor seven weeks early, a lot of his co-workers took his shifts so he could be with his family.

"With Waylon being at the hospital for two weeks, going back and forth, it was really hectic," he said. "Having a lot of support from the guys when he came early was huge."

Gragnani said his co-workers were almost as excited as he was to become a father.

"As soon as my wife, Natalie, and I got home from the hospital, I was getting calls and texts for me to bring the baby up to the firehouse so they could meet her," he said.

So far, Solomon is the only firefighter who has returned to work, and he said the amount of sleep he gets at home versus at work has been about equal.

"Summertime is usually busy, so it can be pretty brutal on a shift," he said. Calls at House 5 last year totaled 3,320, more than double any of the other city firehouses.

That's where an understanding wife comes in handy, Solomon said.

"If it's a night where I'm going to have to work the next day, she lets me kind of have the night off at home," he said. "So I'm stepping up to let her have the night off after my shifts." Gragnani said in his limited time as a father, he's found being a firefighter has been good training.

"I'm used to going to sleep for an hour or two, waking up and having to do something and then going back to sleep and being up again in another hour or two," he said.

Seithel is closely watching how his colleagues are handling things.

"I'm terrified and excited at the same time," Seithel said. "But it's nice to know that everyone else is terrified and excited along with me."

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Neighbors helped get a 93-year-old man out of his home on Elmwood Court in St. Charles after it caught fire on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. Photo courtesy St. Charles Fire Department

February 17, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Susan Weich

ST. CHARLES - A 93-year-old man escaped injury early Tuesday when neighbors noticed flames shooting from the roof of his home and woke him, authorities say.

Irvin Wessler of Elmwood Court appeared to be uninjured when firefighters arrived, but he was transported to St. Joseph Health Center in St. Charles as a precaution for potential smoke inhalation.

St. Charles firefighters received the alarm just before 7 a.m. and arrived to find heavy fire and smoke coming through the roof of the residence.

Wessler, a World War II veteran, was the only occupant of the home. The fire was brought under control within 30 minutes.

Additional crews were called in to assist with extinguishing the fire due to the freezing temperatures. No other injuries were reported.

The home suffered severe damage estimated near $100,000. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Officials are looking into an area where the occupant used a space heater near the garage of the home.

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November 26, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Mark Schlinkmann mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com 636-255-7233

ST. CHARLES - Mike Myers, who retired last year as Las Vegas' fire chief, has been hired to head the much smaller St. Charles Fire Department.

Myers, who spent 26 years with Las Vegas Fire and Rescue in various posts, succeeds Rick Daly as the St. Charles chief. Daly is retiring Dec. 12.

Mayor Sally Faith said her selection of Myers was approved last week by the City Council.

Meanwhile, Faith tapped Craig Dodson as deputy chief. Dodson, who has been batalion chief since 2007, replaces Rich Oney, who also is retiring.

Myers, the new chief, began in Las Vegas as a firefighter in 1986 and later was a paramedic, fire training officer, assistant chief and deputy chief before becoming chief in 2011.

He has a bachelor's degree in health care administration and was a volunteer for years with the Las Vegas police department's search and rescue team.

Michael Spurgeon, the St. Charles director of administration, said Myers helped increase the Las Vegas department's cardiac arrest survivability rate to 30 percent from the national norm of three to five percent.

Myers isn't the first retired big-city fire chief to take over a smaller suburban department in the metro area.

Longtime St. Louis Fire Chief Neil Svetanics, after retiring in 1999, served 12 years as the chief for the Lemay Fire Protection District in south St. Louis County.

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November 3, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network By: Brian Flinchpaugh

ST. CHARLES COUNTY - St. Charles County hopes to have a brand new 911 emergency response system in place by next April.

The County Council with a 6-0 vote approved on Oct. 27 a $3.467 million bid from Emergency CallWorks, Inc., of Birmingham, Alabama, to build, deploy and operate the system for seven years. Councilman Mike Elam (District 3) was absent.

Jennifer George, the county's assistant director of administration, said the county began to discuss updating its 911 system about a year ago.

Presently, the county has two separate systems - one for the city of St. Charles, and the other serving the county Sheriff's Department, Department of Dispatch and Alarm and the cities of St. Peters, O'Fallon, Lake Saint Louis and Wentzville.

After discussing the need for an updated system, the county sought bids for one unified system, selecting Emergency CallWorks as the bidder to present for council approval.

Local and county officials say the current systems need upgrades because of aging equipment and to keep up with growth in the county.

The improvements will create a single system for law enforcement, fire, ambulance and public works communications, which would help eliminate the gaps in service crated by the patchwork of systems. But paying for the system may be expensive, particularly for the county municipalities, which do not pay for providing local dispatching under the current system.

George said the present 2-percent tariff on local service rates for land-based telephone lines to fund 911, approved by county voters in 1984, cannot support the purchase and operation of an improved 911 system. In fact, in 2005 and 2014, the county loaned money from its capital improvement fund to maintain the system.

Fewer telephone users are using land lines, which the 2-percent tariff was based on. George said revenue from land lines in the county appears to be stable. However, she noted that the revenue doesn't include cellphones, which more and more people are using as their primary phone lines.

The state legislature would have to provide the authority to charge cellphone operators a fee to provide additional revenue, which hasn't happened, George said.

New software also is needed to upgrade aging equipment and allow access to new technology including video and other forms of messaging. While specific cost figures were not discussed at the council meeting, county officials were adamant that new technology, including software, is expensive.

Now, individual 911 calls are routed to individual jurisdictions or public safety answering points (PSAPS) depending upon the call's location. PSAPS then dispatch emergency providers such as police or fire departments.

St. Charles County has eight PSAPS - St. Charles, O'Fallon, St. Peters and Wentzville police departments, as well as the St. Charles County Dispatch and Alarm agency, the county Sheriff's Department and the county's Emergency Management Agency.

Individual cities represented by the PSAPS want to retain the ability to dispatch 911 calls, citing that they feel they can do it faster and more efficiently than having one dispatching agency. But George said those cities will have to provide a share of the costs for that dispatching, because not enough money is available from the tariff.

The cost of each police department individually handling 911 dispatching would be too high, she said.

While a task force including representatives from city and county emergency responders has recommended, and the county council has approved, entering into a contract with Emergency CallWorks, the county still must enter new intergovernmental agreements with St. Charles, St. Peters, Lake Saint Louis, Wentzville and O'Fallon that will set their costs. That process is expected to begin in November, George said.

Cities and the county, she noted, have discussed these costs going back to last year and cities are expected to build the added costs into their annual budgets. In the meantime, the county is extending its agreement with AT&T Missouri, the operator of its present system, for eight months in 2015 until the new system is operational. The completion date on the new system is projected to be April 24, 2015.

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Photo by IAFF Local 757

September 11, 2014 - IAFF Local 757

ST. CHARLES - Congratulations to Captain Larry Hagedorn on his retirement! Captain Hagedorn served St. Charles Fire Department for 31 years.

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May 5, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network

ST. CHARLES - On Sunday May 4, at approximately 5:23 p.m., St. Charles patrol officers responded to a residence located in 300 block of S. Fourth Street for a report of a barricaded subject.

Preliminary investigation revealed that a white male, 26, was reportedly armed with a knife and unknown firearm and was suicidal. Officers arrived and began securing the scene and attempted to negotiate with the subject. The St. Charles County Regional SWAT Team was called out and arrived on scene. The subject exited the residence, after setting the residence on fire, and was taken into custody without incident at approximately 6:44 p. m. The St Charles Fire Department was able to extinguish the fire. The structure suffered minor damage due to smoke and fire damage and the presence of a meth lab in the residence.

The subject was transported to a local hospital for injuries sustained by the fire, where he is listed in serious condition.

The investigation is ongoing and any person having any information in reference to this crime is asked to contact the St. Charles Police Department at 949-3300 or St. Charles Crime Stoppers at 949-3333.

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January 05, 2014 - KSDK

ST. CHARLES - Four firefighters were injured Sunday evening while responding to a fire at a home in St. Charles.

The fire started around 7:30 p.m. in the basement of a home in the 600 block of Nancy Drive.

Four City of St. Charles firefighters had to bail out a window after becoming trapped inside the home, and a Mayday call went out. Two of the firefighters were taken to SSM St. Joseph Health Center in St. Charles. The other two were transported to Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur. All four suffered burns. None of the injuries are considered life-threatening.

Officials say the residents of the home made it out safely before firefighters arrived. A dog was rescued from the home and resuscitated.

The fire is believed to have started in the fireplace.

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Updated 1 a.m. Three of the four firefighters have been released from hospitals. One remains at Mercy.


August 12, 2013 - KMOV

ST. CHARLES - Firefighter suffers chemical burn while working to contain fire at St. Charles business Monday afternoon.

Police say a call came out around 10:30 a.m. for some sort of explosion at the Dip N' Strip Furniture Refinishing on North 2nd Street. There was a flash and a fire sparked but an explosion was unconfirmed.

Authorities say two employees were working at the time of the incident but were not injured.

Officials say a firefighter responding to the scene was taken to an area hospital after suffering a chemical burn. The firefighter was released a short time later.

The fire was put out before it damaged neighboring businesses.

All firefighters working the fire took extra precaution and cleaned any possible chemical residue off their clothing.

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August 12, 2013 - KMOV

ST. CHARLES - Emergency and fire crews were called to the scene of an explosion at a business near downtown St. Charles Monday afternoon.

Police say a call came out around 1:30 p.m. for some sort of explosion at the Dip N' Strip Furniture Refinishing on North 2nd Street.

St. Charles Fire arrived at the scene and made requests for additional crews to respond moments later.

No word on possible injuries at this time.

News 4 has a crew on the scene working to gather more information on this developing story.

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June 26, 2013 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

ST. CHARLES COUNTY - A firefighters union political committee faces a fine of up to $22,100 for various campaign finance reporting violations.

According to a consent order issued by the Missouri Ethics Commission last week, the St. Charles Lincoln County Fire PAC was late in filing some reports and in listing some contributions and expenditures. The order also says some reports included inaccurate information.

The violations, the order says, took place between 2009 and last year.

The consent order and joint findings of fact was signed by the committee's treasurer, Justin Darnell of Wentzville.

Under the order, if the committee pays $2,210 of the fine within 45 days, the remainder will be dropped unless further violations take place in the next two years. Darnell could not be reached for comment.

The committee, which ceased operations last September, was affiliated with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665.

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March 7, 2013 - News Network Magazine

ST. CHARLES - The city of St. Charles Firefighters Local 757 presented VFW Post 2866 with a new Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) on March 20. Firefighters will also offer training to the staff annually to ensure proper use of the device.

"The (VFW) Post had asked if we could offer some direction on how to go about getting one to have inside their hall. They have many elderly members and many activities where many elderly members are present," said Dan Casey, with the St. Charles City Fire Department. "We went a step further and decided we would attempt to get one donated so the veterans could use the money they raise for assisting veterans and their families."

ZOLL Medical donated the latest model AED and Firefighters Local 757 donated the alarmed mounting case and training to use the device.

According to firefighters, a defibrillator in combination with good bystander CPR provides the best support to save a life.

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March 14, 2013 - St.CharlesPatch

ST. CHARLES - St. Charles City Council approves plan to raise salaries for fire officers who were making less than some of the employees they supervise. Starting salaries for battalion chiefs will be $98,144 a year.

St. Charles is planning to raise the salaries of several fire chiefs so they are no longer making less than the fire fighters they supervise.

Several chief fire officer positions in the St. Charles Fire Department will be reclassified to a higher pay grade. The five non-represented fire chief officers responsible for supervising staff sometimes make less than the fire captains they oversee whose salary is negotiated.

For example, the chief training officer and chief medical officer salaries are $86,191, while fire captains at the top of their scale have a starting salary of $91,591.

In the past, non-represented fire staff members have not received raises while represented fire employees have received pay raises. In addition, fire captains, who are represented by the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 757, receive an additional $2,452 a year for overtime pay.

"Even now with Deputy Chief (Rich) Oney, with unscheduled overtime, we have some captains who make more than he does," Fire Chief Rick Daly (photo) said.

On Tuesday, the St. Charles City Council approved a plan to reclassify the three battalion chiefs to a higher grade on the pay scale with a starting salary of $98,144. The chief training officer and emergency medical officer will also be reclassified to a higher pay grade which starts at at $91,714 a year.

The restructuring is expected to cost the city $30,000, which will come from savings found by not filling the Assistant Fire Chief position at a savings of $98,766 in salary plus $44,446 in benefits.

The duties of the assistant chief position would be distributed amongst the various chief officer staff positions.

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