An Indianapolis firefighter is in critical condition and investigators blame his injuries on an arson at a suspected illegal gambling “pea shake” house.
Firefighters were called to the 1500 block of Columbia Avenue early Friday morning for a fire at a vacant home. A short time after going inside, something went wrong.
“Within the first minute, one of our firefighters hit a mayday,” said IFD Deputy Chief of Operations Ken Bacon. “This is the worst call you can get in the morning, is that you have a firefighter who is in the hospital because of something that happened on a fire.”
Chris McGrone, a 13-year veteran, is in a medically induced coma to help his lungs heal from smoke inhalation. McGrone could remain in the coma for three to five days.
Bacon says all of IFD is pulling for McGrone to recover, calling him a firefighter’s firefighter.
“What that means is, he would be the person that I would want to be at the end of that hallway with,” Bacon said.
Those who were in the home with McGrone early Friday morning heard his mayday call less than a minute after they entered.
“We’re not sure why, but something happened to his face piece,” Bacon said. “We’re not sure if something fell on him or if there was trauma, but it knocked the regulator out of the face piece.”
Though they helped him outside immediately, McGrones exposure to smoke and intense heat took a harmful toll.
“The general strategy, as far as letting the lung heal is to go ahead and induce a coma,” said Dr. Charles Miramonti, chief of Indianapolis EMS. “Essentially medically, to have the ventilator do all the work.”
There are three major concerns stemming from smoke inhalation including poisoning from carbon monoxide or cyanide, burns in the lungs, and long-term scarring in the lungs.
“Nobody is really going to know for weeks, what the extent of the scarring and the real injuries are going to be,” Dr. Miramonti said.
As everyone waits, investigators will search for clues and a suspect.
“Naturally it’s a much higher (criminal) charge now that you’ve got an injury with the fire,” said David Owens, IFD Deputy Chief of Homeland Security.
A IMPD source tells Fox59 News that detectives suspected the house to be a site of illegal gambling otherwise known as a “pea shake” house. Those in the neighborhood also acknowledged that it was a place to gamble.
Now many are searching for reasons why someone would burn it down.
“It’s hard for us to understand, it’s hard for the families to understand,” Owens said. “But we’re in this business. That’s what we do, and I think that when Chris gets out of the hospital, he’ll think the same thing.”