REISTERSTOWN, Md. (WJZ) — A Baltimore County firefighter is in critical condition. He collapsed before he could save a man from a burning home.

Kai Jackson has the latest on the investigation.

Gene Kirchner is a well-known and beloved firefighter.  He is a seven-year volunteer for the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Department. His family and colleagues are praying for his recovery.

Heavy fire engulfed a Victorian-style home on Hanover Road in Reisterstown. Authorities say the blaze started around 1 a.m. Wednesday. The first fire engines to arrive came from the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company.

“They arrived to find heavy fire on the first floor. That fire was spreading to the second floor. They quickly called for a second alarm,” said Elise Armacost, Baltimore County.

Eventually, the fire went to three alarms and more firefighters were called in to help.

Authorities say Steven Starr, 58, was trapped on the second floor. Firefighters got him out, though he later died.

The situation continued to deteriorate.

“At some point during this fire, a mayday was called because one of our firefighters on the volunteer side was in trouble,” Armacost said.

Hearts are heavy at the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company, where they are praying for Kirchner. The 25-year-old volunteer firefighter was found unconscious by colleagues and rushed to the hospital.  He remains in critical condition at Shock Trauma.

“Anytime there’s an injury to a firefighter, that is also part of an investigation,” Armacost said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is also investigating.

Firefighters say a large amount of clutter inside the house made the fire difficult to fight.  Four other people did get out of the house safely.

Some detectors were in the home. Investigators have not determined if they were operational.

Two cats were also present in the home. One was dead at the scene.


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