Before Monday, more than a quarter century had elapsed since the Kansas City Fire Department lost multiple members on the same day.
This time, six firefighters stood in an alley after sunset, spraying water through windows into a three-story building ablaze along Independence Avenue. They wanted to keep the flames from spreading to a nearby grocery store.
Just minutes earlier, all firefighters had evacuated the weakened structure, home to businesses and apartments, as a safety precaution. They had completed a headcount to make sure everyone was safely out.
But only a small alley, less than 30 feet wide, separated the nearby grocery store from the burning building. So the six firefighters stood in that alley and poured water from hoses through windows into the fire.
Suddenly, bricks and mortar and wood flew at them. The debris trapped four of them. Despite quick rescue efforts, two died.
Trying to keep his composure as he spoke about the men Tuesday, Fire Chief Paul Berardi identified the dead as 43-year-old Larry J. Leggio, a 17-year department veteran assigned to Truck 2, and 39-year-old John V. Mesh, a 13-year department veteran working on Pumper 10.