Lessons learned from Chuck Williams’ death 23 years ago


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.

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Monica Harkins joined the ABC 36 News team in June 2019 as a Multimedia journalist and Anchor/Producer. She’s born and raised in Austin, Texas and headed “North,” as she calls it, to study broadcast journalism and business at the University of Missouri. While at Mizzou she anchored and reported for KOMU 8 News, an NBC affiliate in Columbia, Missouri all four years. During her childhood she played almost every sport, but they always called her “Hollywood” for her love of theatre. In high school, she realized her excitement for theatre and performing was only a small piece of the puzzle. It’s story telling that’s her passion. She’s especially passionate about social media and creative platforms to tell stories. Her most recent experiment is being a FAA certified drone pilot. As a proud Texan she says she’s made of country music, Southern hospitality and Sweet Tea. When she’s not at work you can find her trying new recipes, listening to crime podcasts, reading the latest romance novel or rockin’ out to live music with friends. She says she’s only a tweet or Facebook message away, so say hi and send her the latest on your community. @MonicaHarkinstv or Mharkins@wtvq.com