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Investigation Continues Into Deadly Blaze That Killed Two Kansas City Firefighters

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Laura Ziegler
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KCUR 89.3 file photo
Firetrucks on the scene Tuesday worked to extingush the remaining hot spots.

Federal fire investigators continue to sift through the burned out building in the Historic Northeast that collapsed Monday night, killing two firefighters.

Fire investigators were finally able to enter the building Friday, says Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman John Ham.

“They literally have to think about every footstep because they’re basically on the roof of a three-story building that is down below them,” Ham says.

The initial investigation focused on the building’s east side, the scene of the deadly collapse that trapped four and killed two.

On Thursday, Ham says ATF shifted its focus to the front side of the building. The investigation is progressing faster than initially anticipated, but investigators have yet to reach the collapsed lower floors. That will be done, Ham says, one backhoe scoop at a time.

“Fire investigators sift through it, then it’s swept away, and the next scoop is placed there,” says Ham.

Ham says both the Kansas City Fire Department and Kansas City Police Department reached out for help processing the massive scene before the fire had been extinguished.

That’s not uncommon for fires this size, and Ham thinks would have happened even if firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh hadn’t been killed battling the blaze.

Both Leggio and Mesh were outside of the structure when it collapsed outward on top of them.

Ham couldn’t comment on how frequently burning buildings collapse outward instead of in.

“We have been on scenes where this has happened, but to this extent? It’s hard to describe for those who haven’t been able to see the scene just how completely this building is demolished,” Ham says.

ATF will suspend its investigation Saturday morning so investigators can pay their respects to the fallen, then resume digging Sunday. Ham says he’s hopeful investigators will finish processing the scene next week.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter, @ellemoxley.

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