Lessons learned from Chuck Williams’ death 23 years ago

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Monday marks the 23rd anniversary of a lexington firefighter’s, Chuck Williams Jr., last call.

On February 17, 1997 he died fighting a house fire that was deliberately set.

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“Unfortunately people have lost lives in those lessons learned,” Lexington Battalion Chief Jordan Saas said.

“It’s bitter sweet, but investigators learned a lot from Williams’ death.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, investigates occupational deaths.



NIOSH says Williams and fellow firefighter Jerry Jay went inside the burning house and immediately fell through the floor trapping them in the basement.

“These guys were in an entirely filled structure of heavy black thick hot smoke.”

Williams died of asphyxiation from the smoke. Jay made it out.

In the frenzy of fighting the fire, investigators say no one knew the two men were missing for 8 minutes.

In that 8 minutes, investigators say the two trapped firefighters ran out of air.

Because of William’s death, roll calls are now required every 10 minutes.

The men also didn’t have a radio on them when they got trapped.

“As a direct result of Chuck Williams’ death every single member of the Lexington Fire Department has a portable radio,” Saas said.

And those are just two of Williams’ impacts. But his personal one is arguably even more valuable.

“It’s lasting. He had a personality, I was told, that was larger than life,” Saas said.