Five firefighters were hurt while fighting the flames that destroyed a century-old Minneapolis church, and the Minneapolis Fire Department captain who was burned told FOX 9 News they were lucky to escape alive.
"Last night was probably the closest that I've ever seen us come to losing a group of firefighters," said Capt. Joe Mattison. "We're glad we are here this morning."
A fire that's as hot and intense as the one that broke out on Sunday night will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression for many, but Mattison says after being trapped inside the attic with the flames, he knows it's a fire he'll never forget.
"We couldn't get out," he recalled. "Our exit way was blocked by fire."
Mattison said he and four other firefighters were 30 feet from the fire's origin when conditions changed rapidly.
"We were down as low as we could get, and my ears were tingling and back was tingling -- not tingling, burning," he said. "We were getting toasted in there."
Mattison said they didn't have any water coming from their hose, so the group counted to three and decided to make a dash for it. All five made it out, but all five suffered burns to their hands in the process.
"My burns -- I believe -- [are] from the heat from when we were sitting there, trapped in that corner," Mattison said. "Hot as hell and you got nowhere to go -- it's like being stuck in an oven."
The four others who were injured included a husband and wife who usually work at different stations. The wife is the firefighter who remains hospitalized.
"We are very fortunate and very lucky," Mattison told FOX 9 News, "but we did reflect back on our training, and that's what got us out of there."
The exact cause of the fire is still under investigation, but the blaze broke out as thunderstorms rumbled over the area, and lightning could be the culprit in the attic fire that quickly devoured the historic sanctuary.