By Laurie Bassett Edmonds
PECULIAR – West Peculiar Fire Protection District suffered the loss of Firefighter/Paramedic Charles “Chuck” McCormick, 30, in a residential structure fire late Sunday morning.
The call came in just after 11 a.m. on Jan. 5 for a structure fire in the Deer Run subdivision just outside Peculiar city limits. What started out as a routine fire call in the 22300 block of Deer Run Road, swiftly turned tragic when a floor joist collapsed, taking McCormick into the basement and injuring the captain that was with him.
Crews on the scene attempted numerous rescues, which were initially unsuccessful. Fire departments throughout Cass and Jackson counties responded quickly, coming to the assistance of one of their own.
McCormick was located and transported to Belton Regional Medical Center but could not be revived from his injuries. He leaves a wife, Rachel, and three sons under the age of 10.
“I don’t have words to explain how horrific this is,” said West Peculiar Fire Chief Bobby Sperry. “I can’t describe how helpless it felt not to be able to locate him.”
Sperry went on to explain that his focus now is on getting the resources to provide for the needs of McCormick’s family and on giving his firefighters the support they need.
He said that there has been a lot of support from Local Unions 3112 and 42 and the International Association of Firefighters, who among other things have provided a counselor for staff, the Missouri State Council of Firefighters, the Missouri Funeral Team, and every fire chief in the Metro Area. He said the community has been wonderful, as well.
“We’re feeling kind of lost right now,” said Sperry, “and we appreciate the support as we move through this.”
Former Belton Fire Chief Norman Larkey said that “time and distance” are the key to coming out on the other side of the grief and being able to fight another fire.
“It’s hard,” said Larkey, who had dealt with similar tragedies during his years with the Kansas City Fire Department, and remained by Sperry’s side throughout this week. “It leaves a really big hole. You’ll never fill that hole in, but somehow you have to figure out how to get to the other side.”
Supporting Heroes, a public safety non-profit, has been a valuable resource for both the family and the fire district, providing immediate financial support for the family and coordinating the Line of Duty funeral service.
Their brochure states: “Like any specialized team in Public Safety, we prepare for tragedies we all hope never occur. Yet, we know it is not a question of ‘if’ another hero will fall, but a matter of ‘when,’ ‘where,’ and ‘who.’”
Fire District Office Manager Amy McWade said that numerous area businesses and individuals have gone above and beyond to help out. She mentioned Jay’s Uniforms, who basically dropped everything in order to get the crews outfitted in their Class A uniforms; McGilley and George Funeral Home; Abundant Life Church; and Mayor Holly Stark.
Area departments are staffing the station to give crews time to process and regroup. So far, Central Jackson County, Belton, Grandview, and Western Cass have all helped in that capacity. She said the community has been just wonderful and people have reached out nationwide.
“For us as a department, it’s our chief, Chief Sperry, who has held us together,” said McWade. “We couldn’t ask for a better leader right now.”
In addition to a GoFundMe page for the family, donations have been coming into the station. Sperry said that next week he will get an account set up to provide for the education of McCormick’s children.
“The boys will have that piece of what Chuck wanted them to have,” he said.
Celebration of Life services are set for 11 a.m., Saturday at Abundant Life Baptist Church, 304 SW Persels Rd., Lees Summit. Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. tonight at Abundant Life Baptist Church. The firefighter walk-through will be at 5:30 p.m. today.
Following Saturday’s service, a procession will travel south on M-291 Highway from the church, before turning west on M-58 Highway and traveling through Raymore and north on Interstate 49 en route to private burial services.
Memorials are suggested to the family, so they may pay it forward.
Also tonight, the Peculiar Lions Club will host a pancake supper fundraiser at the Lions Club Community Building on Schug Ave. from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Funds raised will be split equally between the McCormick family and the family which lost all its belongings in the fire.
And on Thursday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson ordered U.S. and Missouri flags to be flown at half-staff at government buildings in Cass County and fire houses across the state on Saturday in honor of McCormick. “Firefighter-Paramedic Charles McCormick lived his life as a devoted public servant committed to protecting others,” Parson said.
“He made the ultimate sacrifice, and he will always be remembered for his legacy of bravely serving his community, state, and nation so that others could be safe. Firefighter-Paramedic McCormick’s tragic passing serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by members of Missouri’s fire service, who take on risks each day to protect their neighbors and people they may never meet.”
Before joining the fire service, McCormick served as a member of the Missouri National Guard 1135th Engineer Company from September 2011 to September 2014.