PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Ten years ago today was one of the worst fires in Pittsburgh history when the Ebenezer Baptist Church caught on fire in the Hill District.
On Sunday, Pittsburgh city firefighters returned to Ebenezer Baptist Church to worship with the congregation and to remember a devastating fire that killed two of their colleagues and injured 29 others.
“Ten years ago, I remember marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and looking up and seeing a pile of smoke in the sky and thinking, ‘That’s a big fire, hope everything’s okay.’ And then, learning what had happened,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said.
The fire destroyed the church and caused the deaths of Captain Charlie Brace and Master Firefighter Richard Stephanicus.
“Two brave souls along with 30-40 other bodies ran in and out of this building to do what they could do to save it. Along with that, they paid the ultimate price and they lost their lives,” Brenda Tate said.
Veteran firefighter Inenell Leonard was working with Brace and Stepahnicus that morning.
“Watching Charlie Brace give assignments to different companies and Rick was at Station No. 3 and he gave him the assignment to come into the building. Then, the tower fell,” Leonard said.
“I don’t feel my husband should have died. I don’t feel he should have went into the church when it was already gone. I guess God needed an angel wish he wouldn’t have taken mine,” Stephanie Stephanicus said.
Stephanie Stephanicus lit a candle for her husband during the service today. She admits it was difficult to come back to the place where he died.
“It’s hard. I feel like I’m standing over where he died and then our boy was shot to death a year-and-a-half after Rick got killed and Charlie, so I lost my whole family,” she said.
Ebenezer Baptist was rebuilt in 2006, but the area where the tower collapsed has been replaced by a permanent monument honoring the two brave firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice.