Crews Remove Rubble From Pennsylvania Church Where Two Firefighters Were Killed

Crews removed rubble Monday from a historic black church to let investigators reach an electrical system at the base of the structure _ the suspected origin of a fire that destroyed the church and killed two firefighters.


PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Crews removed rubble Monday from a historic black church to let investigators reach an electrical system at the base of the structure - the suspected origin of a fire that destroyed the church and killed two firefighters.

Authorities believe Saturday's blaze at Ebenezer Baptist Church was accidental, said Jim Tanda of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. All safety protocols were followed, both fire and union officials said.

Firefighters thought the blaze was under control and set up fire hoses to douse hot spots in the basement, where the bodies of both firefighters were found.

Both were crushed when the steeple of the historic church collapsed, and falling debris injured 21 other firefighters and a city employee. Five firefighters suffered burns. Two firefighters remained hospitalized Monday night.

Fire Chief Peter Micheli said there were no indications the building was unstable when firefighters entered since the roof had already collapsed.

``This was normal procedure,'' he said.

A board of inquiry will look into whether the city should take up additional safety measures, the chief said. Since 1995, only one city firefighter had died - in 1999, of a heart attack.

Funerals for master firefighter Richard A. Stefanakis, 51, and battalion chief Charles G. Brace, 55, are scheduled Thursday.

``They were patriots of the fire service, teachers to the younger guys,'' union president Joe King said.

Related: