State report reveals more details of blaze that killed West Peculiar firefighter last month

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PECULIAR, Mo. — Missouri state fire inspectors spent weeks investigating the house fire last month that killed a Peculiar firefighter.

The state fire marshal’s report, which was released Friday afternoon, said an electrical issue likely caused the fire. But the house is so damaged, it will be impossible to determine for sure.

That fire, which took place on a rural section of Deer Run Road, took the life of Chuck McCormick, a West Peculiar firefighter. 

The report said the house involved in the fire had recently undergone renovations, which may have played a role in the fire. Investigators said they found evidence of damage to wiring in the house’s basement.

According to the report, McCormick and a fire captain entered the burning home, and when it became too dangerous, they turned around to evacuate.

The report said that’s when debris from the burning house began falling on them.

At one point, the captain told investigators he felt as if he “came to,” but McCormick wasn’t with him, and he ran from the house to get help. 

Chuck McCormick

According to the report, the fire was intense enough to damage steel beams inside the floor of the house. The official report said that caused much of the house’s floor to fall into the basement.

The documents said McCormick was in the home’s dining room when the floor gave way, and he fell into the basement. Firefighters could see the firehose he carried disappearing into a hole in the floor.

The fire marshal’s report said firefighters on the scene could hear McCormick’s personal safety device going off, and at least one first responder heard the man yelling for help.

But firefighters couldn’t find him in time.

The report said 20 minutes after assisting crews from Kansas City Fire Department arrived, they entered the basement and found McCormick under a pile of rubble. It was too heavy for one person to move.

When the firefighters finally pulled McCormick out, they found him without a helmet or mask. It’s unclear as to whether they might have come off as he fell or as firefighters pulled him from the wreckage. His air tank was also empty.

An autopsy showed that the 30-year-old had second-degree burns over his entire body. A coroner is waiting on test results to come back before determining an exact cause of death.

McCormick, according to the report, was taken to a hospital in full cardiac arrest, and he later died there. 

West Peculiar Chief Bobby Speery told FOX4 last month at first nothing about the fire seemed out of the ordinary.

“There wasn’t any indications when we got here that we had anything more than what we call a room and contents fire,” he said in January.

But the report details many things that went wrong, including a captain’s non-working radio that might have helped the chief find out faster that one of his men was trapped inside.

“I’ve read a lot of death reports on firefighters over the years about things going wrong,” Sperry said last month. “I just never thought I was going to be writing one.”

It’s a 47-page report that may still leave many with more questions than answers.

“It was very sad,” neighbor Tabitha Gaither recalled Friday. “I was standing here watching the fire and letting firefighters and police do what they do. It did break my heart. He was young. He had a family. We also had a family who lost their house. It was a very sad day.”

On Friday, members of the West Peculiar Fire Prevention District were contacted for comment on the report. They declined FOX4’s request for an interview. So did the family that owns that home on Deer Run Road, which remains off-limits to the public and roped off with yellow tape. 

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