|Agency||Carthage Fire Department|
|Type of Firefighter||Volunteer|
|Age Range||21 to 25|
|Date of Birth||9/9/1975|
|Date of Death||10/2/1997|
|Cause of Death||Struck by object|
|Nature of Death||Trauma|
|Attribute of Death||[not applicable]|
|Type of Duty||Firefighting operations|
On October 2, 1997, Firefighters Michael Dean Mapes and Walter Douglas Buckert of the Carthage Fire Department died in the line of duty while fighting a liquefied petroleum gas fire at a farm located near Burnside, Illinois.
Shortly after 4:30PM, the fire started in an operating grain dryer that was in the process of drying corn. The grain dryer was powered by a tractor and connected to two 1,000-gallon, horizontal liquefied petroleum gas tanks, and the fire quickly spread to the tractor and tanks.
Firefighters responded to the fire from more than ten miles away in Carthage. As they approached the farm, the firefighters could see 30-40 foot flames shooting into the air, as the pressure relief valves on the liquefied petroleum gas tanks vented flames up into the sky. The first fire engine on scene was positioned behind a large grain silo and a pole shed, but the tailboard of the engine was slightly exposed and was directly in-line with one liquefied petroleum gas tank. Mapes and Buckert were standing near the engine’s tailboard when a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE) occurred. The broken tank shot like a rocket through the pole shed and struck Mapes and Buckert, instantly killing both firefighters.
Funeral services for Mapes and Buckert were held on October 7. Mapes, a ten-year veteran of the Carthage Fire Department, was survived by his widow, two children, and his parents. Buckert, a member of the department for one year, was survived by his parents and one sister.