Chief: Gene Kirchner Was Searching for Man Trapped in Fire

The volunteer firefighter who was was critically injured during the April 24 fire in Reisterstown died Thursday at Maryland Shock Trauma. His funeral is set for Sunday.

It was a horrific fire April 24 that the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company was called to control.

Volunteer firefighter Gene Kirchner, 25, and several others were searching the home at 19 Hanover Rd., trying to find a resident because "very, very agitated residents were screaming that someone was trapped," Baltimore County Fire Chief John Hohman said during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

"Gene and others, they attempted to rescue the individual," Hohman said, calling the fire "horrific."

Kirchner, a nine-year veteran of the company, died on Thursday at Maryland Shock Trauma after spending eight days in critical condition.

"Gene himself ended up being rescued from the second floor by his co-volunteers here at Reisterstown and two members from the Franklin station," Hohman said.

The resident they were searching for, Steven Starr, 58, died in the fire.

By noon Thursday, firefighters had draped the fire station in black cloth and flags. Flags were put at half-staff, and by about 2:10 p.m., the Baltimore County Police Department had announced Kirchner's death, and called a press conference.

Gov. Martin O'Malley ordered the Maryland State Flag flown at half-staff upon hearing of Kirchner's death.

"He will be remembered as a very dedicated young man who had a wonderful life ahead of him, who loved nothing more than to volunteer," Hohman said during the press conference in front of the fire station.

It's a Kirchner family tradition to volunteer at the station and Gene volunteered along with his sister and his twin brother, he said.

Kirchner's mother is a Reisterstown resident and his father is coming in from out of town, Hohman said.

The day-to-day calls made at the Baltimore County Fire Department are not usually dangerous, he said. But in rare instances, such as on April 24, it gets very dangerous, so firefighters are trained for these situations.

"It was an older home, which is always much more dangerous because of the older construction." Hohman said. "An investigation continues as to all of the circumstances, including the cause of the fire and any contributing factors."

The three-story Victorian home, which had been divided into apartments, showed heavy fire and smoke on the first floor that spread to the second floor, a Baltimore County Police Department spokeswoman has said.

Funeral services for Kirchner will be held at 1 p.m. May 5 at Har Sinai Congregation, 2905 Walnut Ave., Owings Mills, according to a news release.

Burial will be at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium. Read about the funeral procession route.

"A full fire department funeral is planned," the release states.

Stay with Patch for updates.

Read more about the fire:

  • Baltimore County: Reisterstown Firefighter in Critical Condition after Blaze
  • Volunteer Firefighters Rally In Wake Of Injury
  • Assistant Chief: Injured Firefighter Is Key Responder for Company
  • UPDATE: Reisterstown Firefighter Gene Kirchner Dies in Hospital
Jackie Breau May 03, 2013 at 04:26 AM
My heart goes out to the family of firefighter Gene Kirchner. He was truly a hero!
CP May 03, 2013 at 01:00 PM
Whole thing sucks.
Glen Harmon May 03, 2013 at 02:18 PM
What a tragedy, the young man had his whole life ahead of him.My prayers are with his family.
Chuck Burton May 03, 2013 at 02:29 PM
When we think of heroes we tend to think of the military, but there are many heroes here at home, and this man was certainly one of them, as are so many in our police3 and fire services. And he leaves behind a brother and sister following his footsteps. Our hearts go out to all his family, and to his mates in service.
Tim May 03, 2013 at 03:21 PM
Not much more to add here to this. My condolences to family and friends of this brave young man.


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