Firefighter dies after battling 2-alarm fire at northwest DC high-rise apartment

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A firefighter has died in the line of duty after battling a high-rise apartment fire in northwest D.C.

Just over an hour into his shift at 8:10 a.m. Wednesday, Lt. Kevin McRae and his crew from Engine Company 6 got the call for a working fire on the ninth floor of the apartment building on 7th Street.

"It took approximately 50 minutes to extinguish the fire," said Bowser. "After the fire was put down, Lt. McRae exited the building safely with his crew. He then collapsed on the scene. Paramedics started CPR immediately and transported Lt. McRae here to MedStar where every effort was made to revive Lt. McRae."

"The paramedics on the scene from what we surmised did everything that they could do," said Dr. Jeffrey Rubin of MedStar Washington Hospital Center. "They did the right thing immediately. They gave the right care for him, and unfortunately, despite all our efforts unfortunately, for people who are victims of sudden death, often cardiac arrest, despite everything we do, we often times cannot bring them back."

A second injured firefighter was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries, Bowser said. Two civilians were also injured and hospitalized.

"Flames were shooting out of the building profusely, and as they shot out, the alarm, I guess it kicked in, but I believe it should have kicked in earlier than it did," said witness Michael Gaskins.

Acting Fire Chief Gregory Dean, just three days on the job, said the cause of the fire was not immediately known.

"I have not had the opportunity to talk to the fire investigators yet," he said. "Since Lt. McRae died, we have spent all of our time with the family."

Firefighters standing outside MedStar Washington Hospital Center snapped to attention and all saluted as the flag draped body of Lt. McRae was wheeled out of the hospital and into the back of a waiting ambulance.

Officers on motorcycles then escorted the body of the father of three through the Shaw neighborhood to the fireground where firefighters still on duty could pay their respects.

Firefighters who knew him well called McRae "a good dude and one of the nicest guys you would ever meet."

Firefighters picked up McRae's mother and wife and brought them to the hospital.

"They're devastated as is his other family, which is the fire department and his crew, and it's pretty shocking," said Mayor Bowser.

After his death, firefighters collected the lieutenant's gear -- his helmet, boots and turnout coat. And as if a touchstone, they placed them near a locker on the apparatus floor.

Black bunting hung above the doors here at Engine Company 6 right next to Dunbar High School. This fire station was packed with people all remembering the fallen hero.

"Kevin always had a smile on his face," said fellow D.C. firefighter John Donnelly. "I think he always had a positive attitude. It can get pretty ugly 20 hours into your shift and be pretty busy. He was there doing it just the same as when he came in to the door in the morning."

McRae came to the department in 1989 as a cadet at just 18 years old. But he grew to be a mentor for the next generation of young firefighters.

"Kevin was always available to help somebody, to teach them whether it's going over the side of a building on a rope or how to search in a burning building to find a victim," said Donnelly. "Kevin had done all of those things and he had done them at an extremely high level and he taught other people to do it."

McRae leaves behind a wife and three children.

And it is the not the first loss his family has suffered. McRae's cousin, James, also died while on the job as a D.C. firefighter in 2007.

"I can't imagine," Donnelly said. "This is the second time it has happened to them. It is terrible."