Roberts (IL) firefighter Rick Flessner said that he was "just glad to be here" after a close call at a restaurant fire, reports The News-Gazette.
An estimated 30 firefighters from three area departments responded to a fire at Bubba's Bar and Grill. No one was inside the bar as it had closed at 10:30 the night prior.
As firefighters started battling the fire inside the building, Flessner fell through weakened flooring on the bar's first floor and into the basement, Boundy said.
"We had just entered to do some fire suppression -- to pull down ceilings so we could see if there was fire in the ceilings," Flessner said.
"And we sounded the floor when we went in. I had a short pike pole. Typically you bang on the floor (with the pike pole) when you go in, and it was sound when we walked in.
"But apparently when we were pulling that ceiling down, the floor gave way, and when it did, I fell and caught myself on the pole I was using. I fell onto the pike pole across the floor space, and when the floor gave way the rest of the way, I went all the way down into the basement."
Flessner estimated the fall to be about eight feet.
"Luckily, there was nothing below me, and I just fell to the floor and crawled to the wall," Flessner said.
"Then I ran out of breathing air. That's when I got a little nervous. But training and experience tells you, 'Take the end of your mask and stick it in your coat and breathe the air that is inside your coat.' So that's what I did.
"And I kept yelling for help, and I stuck my pike pole out through the hole I had fallen through, and (other firefighters then) saw it and sent a ladder down, and I crawled up it."
Flessner was able to climb out of the basement under his own power.
"We had three guys down in the basement and guys up front, so we got him out of there pretty quick," Melvin Fire Chief Larry Boundy said.
Flessner said Friday that he still is "a little sore from the fall" but is thankful he was not seriously injured. Flessner had never been in a situation like that before.
"I guess my biggest thought is why training is so important," Flessner said. "Training is important, and so is your gear -- having good fire-protection gear so you can fight fires safely."
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