Investigators revisit scene that led to fire captain's death

Captain Kemper worked for the St. Louis Fire Department for 24 years.

ST. LOUIS - One day after the St. Louis Fire Department announced the death of a captain, investigators returned to the scene of the fire where he was injured.

On Wednesday, the department confirmed 59-year old Captain John Kemper died, days after he was released from a local hospital. Kemper was injured fighting a fire on the 3600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue in south St. Louis during the early morning hours of July 5th.

Officials first thought Kemper had a shoulder injury, but he was moved into the ICU. Several days after his release from the hospital, the department learned Kemper died while out of town relaxing with his family. The fire department said they do not yet know the official cause of death.

Thursday, fire investigators returned to the scene of the fire on Pennsylvania, for a closer look.

“It was a fire at 2 o’clock in the morning, investigators just want to make sure that they didn’t miss anything,” said St. Louis Fire Captain Garon Mosby. “Maybe someone who hadn't come out at 2 o’clock in the morning might be out today and we might get an opportunity to talk.”

Investigators poked around the abandoned building, which the department deemed too dangerous to enter. They spoke to neighbors on the street, and also found a number of spent fireworks. Firefighters and neighbors recalled a large amount of fireworks popping in the neighborhood the night of the fire.

“We can’t directly link it to the cause of [the] fire but could it have been a contributing factor? Absolutely,” Mosby said.

Kemper joined the St. Louis Fire Department in 1993, and was promoted to captain in 2008. He was assigned to Engine House 23 in south St. Louis, where black bunting now hangs in mourning.

Backstoppers, a non-profit that supports families of fallen first responders, will provide Kemper’s family with assistance.
“It’s our opportunity on behalf of Backstoppers and the community to show them our respect for John and to be able to support that family,” said Ron Battelle, the Executive Director of Backstoppers and the former St. Louis County Police Chief.

“I’m told he was a highly dedicated firefighter who loved his family and loved serving the citizens of St. Louis.”

© 2017 KSDK-TV


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