Metro-East News

Godfrey fire captain killed fighting blaze in Bethalto praised as ‘natural leader,’ chief says

Update on Godfrey firefighters injured in March 5 fire

During a news conference on March 6, 2019, Chief Erik Kambarian gave an update on the firefighters injured and killed while fighting a house fire March 5 in Bethalto.
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During a news conference on March 6, 2019, Chief Erik Kambarian gave an update on the firefighters injured and killed while fighting a house fire March 5 in Bethalto.

The Godfrey Fire Department firefighter who was killed fighting a Tuesday afternoon blaze in Bethalto was a “natural leader” who “embodied the department,” the agency’s fire chief said Wednesday.

At an afternoon press conference at the Godfrey Fire Department, an emotional Chief Erik Kambarian recognized Capt. Jacob “Jake” Ringering, 37, for his achievements in the community and for the sacrifice he made the night before.

“Jake was gold,” he said. “People wanted to be like Jake.”

Another Godfrey firefighter who was injured in the blaze, Luke Warner, also was acknowledged at the press conference. Kambarian said that both of Warner’s legs were broken, but that he was in stable condition at a St. Louis hospital after going through surgery Wednesday morning. Warner has been with the department since 2000.

The house fire began around 4 p.m. Tuesday at a brick structure at 4604 Culp Lane in Bethalto. The building was an older brick structure, a news release from the department said Wednesday. It is unknown what started the fire.

The family who lived inside the home was able to escape, the Alton Telegraph reported. However, several pets that were in cages at the time perished in the fire.

The Fosterburg Fire Department was the original responding agency, but it called for mutual aid from Bethalto, Cottage Hills, Brighton, Dorsey and Godfrey fire departments. While crews worked against the fire, a portion of the building collapsed, killing Ringering and injuring three other firefighters. Kambarian said Wednesday that the firemen were performing exterior fire suppression operations when the accident occurred.

The two other injured firemen have yet to be identified, but the Godfrey Fire Department had confirmed in a press release the two had been treated for the injuries at a St. Louis hospital and have since been released.

Ringering leaves behind a wife and three kids. A career firefighter, he had been working as a firefighter since 2001 and had worked for the department since 2010. He also served as president of the local firefighters union, a role Kambarian said Ringering performed exceptionally well.

“He always had the best interests of our guys at heart,” he said at the press conference.

Kambarian emphasized that the community can support the department by thanking first-responders and giving the fallen and injured firefighters’ families privacy during this time.

“We’re a small department with both career and volunteer firefighters,” he said. “Everyone is hurt.”

The Illinois State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.

Carolyn P. Smith has worked for the Belleville News-Democrat for 18 years and currently covers breaking news in the Metro-East. She graduated from the Journalism School at the University of Missouri at Columbia and says news is in her DNA.
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Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.
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