Firefighter hospitalized after battling house fire near downtown Indianapolis

Arson under investigation

INDIANAPOLIS - An Indianapolis firefighter is in a medically induced coma after sustaining injuries while battling a house fire near downtown early Friday morning.

Private Chris McGrone, 38, was taken to IU Methodist Hospital with what officials believed to be slight injuries.

But once McGrone was examined by doctors, he was listed in critical condition with injuries related to smoke inhalation.

"The effects of smoke inhalation can be tricky to assess as they react differently in each person," said IFD spokeswoman Rita Burris, in a news release. "Smoke in a super-heated environment contains toxic gases and particulate matter that can produce symptoms hours and/or days later and should always be monitored by a physician."

The fire was reported at a vacant house just before 3:30 a.m. in the 1500 block of Columbia Avenue, a few blocks east of 16th Street and College Avenue.

Indianapolis Fire Department Lt. Larry Tracy said the flames were so intense, firefighters had to use a defensive attack to douse the flames.

"When firefighters got here, (the fire) was fully involved and flames were shooting through the roof. The fire advanced very quickly before the firefighters got to the scene," Tracy said.

Officials said McGrone inhaled some of the fire's thick, black smoke after part of his face mask fell off.

"It is a bad situation when that  fresh air is taken away from a firefighter and all they have left are those super heated gases and that's what happened in this situation," IFD Chief Ken Bacon said.

Other first responders got McGrone out of the house.

"Immediately when he went down our crews extracted him from the house and other firefighters immediately started to render care to him," said EMS Battalion Chief David Kelley.

Investigators said the fire was intentionally set, but no suspects have been identified. Metro police said the building was used as an illegal gambling house.

McGrone, a 13-year veteran of IFD, will be in the medically induced coma for three to five days, fire officials said. 

His equipment has been quarantined for investigation, officials said.

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