CAHOKIA HEIGHTS, Ill. – Two people are dead and several others, including firefighters, are injured after a Cahokia Heights house fire.

The fire broke out on Interstate 255 and Route 15, and several occupants were trapped inside the burning home. As first responders arrived on the scene, thick black smoke could be seen for miles.

The blaze happened around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. The St. Clair County Coroner identified the victims as 78-year-old Bob Tierce and 82-year-old Larry Wetzel. Several others were hurt, including firefighters.

Chief Dimario Douglas of the Alorton Fire Department was the first one on the scene and helped rescue people from the home.

“We get in, and we saw the two victims laying down on the ground. And that’s when we were able to pull those two out and come back and do a second primary search and rescue and found the third victim in the kitchen,” Douglas said.

The fire chief said he knew the victims.

“Good people, this is my community. I love my people here. This is the bad part that I hate,” Douglas said. “We did our best, hats off to the mutual aid guys. We did exactly what we could.”

Samantha Stephens was good friends with Tierce and is heartbroken.

“We go shopping together, grocery shopping, I help him with dog food. He’s very kind, generous man, always wanting to help people,” she said. “He was always generous with everyone, he’s just a good guy.”

Wetzel and another victim were taken to a hospital in critical condition with smoke inhalation. Wetzel later died, and the other person remains in critical condition. Tierce died at the scene.

Three firefighters also suffered minor injuries. Crews from multiple fire departments responded to the scene. There was a large amount of debris in front of the home. Fire officials said that made the rescues more challenging.

The victims’ neighbors are in shock.

“Down to earth, he just a real good guy. In any kind of way, however, whatever he could do for you, he would do,” said Charles Harris. “If you need him, it didn’t make no difference when or what he was there.”

The state fire marshal has been called in to help with the investigation. So far, a cause has not been determined.