A family member places a flower in remembrance of the firefighters who lost their lives on Oct. 12, 2015. Photo by Michael Bushnell

Five years ago today on the evening of October 12, 2015, Kansas City, Mo. firefighters responded to a huge blaze in an aging, three story mixed-use building at 2600 Independence Blvd. The blaze would injure four Kansas City firefighters, claiming the lives of two Northeast natives and department veterans, Larry Leggio and John Mesh.

A permanent memorial to the two firefighters was dedicated last year and currently stands at the fire site on the west wall of Snyder’s Supermarket.

Construction on a new mixed-use development at 2600 Independence Blvd. began about two weeks ago. Officials with CJR Construction, the general contractor for the project, wanted to honor the firefighters and their families on the anniversary of the fatal fire.

A crowd of family – both by birth and by brotherhood, friends and community members gathered at the scene of the deadly fire on Oct. 12, 2020. Photo by Michael Bushnell

“We don’t want to erase the past, and we surely don’t want to forget it,” said Charles Robinson, Founder and President of CJR Construction Group.

Part of the new development facing the fire site includes two trees, one memorializing each of the fallen firefighters and a bench facing the permanent memorial at Snyder’s.

“We want to remember and honor the sacrifice of these great men, and build better communities in honor of that sacrifice,” Robinson added.

Missy Leggio remembers her husband on the anniversary of his death. Photo by Michael Bushnell

A decorative wreath and banner were hung on the chain link fence surrounding the construction site and will remain there throughout the course of the week.

The 2015 fire was set in a storefront nail salon on the first floor of the building. After an exhaustive investigation by city, state and federal agencies, the salon’s owner, Thu Hong Nguyen was charged with arson and murder for the deaths of Mesh and Leggio. She was found guilty and sentenced to 74 years in prison for the crime.

Kansas City, Missouri Fire Chief Donna Maize expressed great appreciation to the roughly one hundred twenty family members, community leaders and Firefighters who attended the service.

Kansas City Fire Department Chief Donna Maize speaks at a memorial for firefighters and Northeast natives Larry Leggio and John Mesh on the anniversary of the deadly fire on Independence Avenue that killed them on Oct. 12, 2015. Photo by Michael Bushnell

“This has become a memorial site and is hallowed ground in some aspects,” Maize said. “The lessons we learned from that fire continue to make us better Firefighters, better paramedics and first responders and that’s the legacy that I hope does justice to the memory of Larry and John.” 

The new mixed-use development will house seven retail storefronts on the ground floor and 18 one bedroom apartment units on the second floor. The ten month project officially breaks ground next Monday, October 19.