ST. LOUIS – A new initiative to examine thousands of vacant buildings in St. Louis City could help save the lives of firefighters.

On Sunday morning, crews from nine firefighting agencies met to address the tough decisions responders routinely make.

“When a company is dispatched to a call for a fire in that building, it will come up in our system whether or not we are to enter that building or we’re not entering that building,” St. Louis Fire Captain Leon Whitener said. “So crews will know before they arrive on the scene if this is a building we’re going to go in or not.”

Whitener said where they started and where they met Sunday have meaning.

“We’re all here we’re going to canvas the Hamilton Heights, Goodfellow-Wells area to survey vacant buildings and the integrity of those structures,” he said. “This is the firehouse that Firefighter Benjamin Paulson was at when he died in a fire just a few months ago.”

Whitener said the initiative will continue until all 10,000 properties throughout the city are inspected.

“We will mark whether or not the buildings occupied or whether it’s a vacant lot, and then, obviously, rate it per our three-tier system,” he said.

Whitener said the mission remains the same – protecting those who protect us.

“This could absolutely save the lives of firefighters in the future,” Whitener said.