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St. Louis firefighter dies after roof collapses in vacant house
St. Louis, Mo.
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ST. LOUIS — A firefighter died in the line of duty Thursday afternoon while responding to a fire in a vacant house in St. Louis.

On Thursday afternoon, the St. Louis Fire Department identified him as Firefighter Benjamin Polson, 33. 

"It is with profound sadness and grief that we announce the tragic line of duty death of Firefighter Benjamin Polson," the department said in a tweet. "Firefighter Polson died while courageously fighting a house fire in the 5900 block of Cote Brilliante earlier today. Arrangements will be forthcoming."

The fire started in a building in the 5900 block of Cote Brilliante Avenue. The St. Louis Fire Department said there was heavy smoke on the first and second floors and reports of possible victims in the building.

Crews were able to knock down the fire on the first floor. They then made their way to the second floor and soon after made the call to back out because the flames were too intense. While trying to back out, the roof of the building collapsed, burying the two firefighters on the second floor.

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said one of the firefighters took the brunt of the collapse.

"It appears that collapse caused his grave injuries," Chief Jenkerson said. "We do have a firefighter death."

The second firefighter was injured in the collapse while trying to help the other firefighter. Another firefighter also was injured. Both were treated and released from the hospital.

"The St. Louis City Fire Department does a job every day in buildings that many departments consider buildings we shouldn’t enter," Jenkerson said. "We know that people use these homes to stay warm, to provide protection against the different environments."

The fire chief appeared emotional at times while giving an update to reporters. He explained his crews work daily to try to protect St. Louisans. In this case, firefighters went into the building to make sure nobody was still in there.

"We get paid to protect lives. We get paid to take a risk and it's hard to tell somebody on the street who's yelling and screaming at us that there might be somebody in there, 'Well, this risk might be too great.' We take the risk and unfortunately and terribly the risk we took today wasn't worth it. We lost a firefighter."

Fire investigators will look into the conditions of the building to try to determine the cause of the fire and the collapse.

The BackStoppers said it will be assisting with expenses following Polson's death.

“This incident is a sobering reminder of the real dangers our first responders face each and every day as they fight to keep our communities safe,” Chief Ron Battelle, the executive director of The BackStoppers, said in a press release. “Losing any first responder is a heartbreak for each of us, but we will make sure they are never forgotten.”

The fire department said Polson was not married and had no children. He had a little more than two years of experience with the department. His father is a retired captain with the St. Louis Fire Department.

For more information and to donate to The BaskStoppers, click here.

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