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Firefighters Ran for Their Lives to Escape Younkers Fire

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DES MOINES, Iowa óDes Moines firefighters shared their stories Thursday morning about what they found when they arrived on the scene of the Younkers Building fire last Saturday.

The historic building already had flames roaring out of two upper floors when firefighters arrived.

"Initially we encountered a gate that was padlocked. We attempted to bust the lock off with our hand tools. That didn't work," said Lt. Randy Jones of the Des Moines Fire Department.

With the help of bolt cutters, crews made it inside about five minutes later. Once inside, there was no smoke or flames on the first couple floors.

"If you wouldn't have seen the outside of the building, you wouldn't have known the building was on fire," said Jones.

When crews got to floor 5, they realized the situation was quickly accelerating out of control.

"We heard the loud booms and the floors were actually shaking and we hear the roaring," said Firefighter Travis Hurley.

"We need to get out of the building -- that the building was coming down. We need to get out!" said Jones. "I remember running as fast as I could and it was like I was hardly moving."

Firefighters were forced to drop their gear and run. Minutes later part of the west building collapsed.

All six firefighters made it out alive. The delays earlier in getting inside the building likely saved lives.

"It didn't really hit me until we got outside that it was close -- too close," said Jones.

"If we would have been a little quicker into that building, those folks would have been up the stairwell," said Hurley.

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