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Panthers Staff Make Fire Rescue

May 3, 2002

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Fire broke out Friday in apartments overlooking the Carolina Panthers’ practice field, sending three members of the team’s staff into the building to rescue residents.

The fire broke out about 11:30 a.m. as the Panthers were wrapping up their first session of a three-day mini-camp.

No one was injured in the two-alarm fire, which destroyed three apartment units and caused an estimated $300,000 in structural damage, said Capt. Rob Brisley of the Charlotte Fire Department.

``By the time we got here, everyone was out of the units and we were able to concentrate solely on putting the fire out,″ Brisley said. ``There’s no telling how bad it could have been if the Carolina Panthers had not helped out. They got the people out of the buildings, probably saved some lives, and definitely saved some condominiums because we were immediately able to work on the fire.″

Kyle Kandel, a part-time strength coach, was standing at the far end of the field when the defensive line unit pointed out billowing smoke coming from the top of the three-story unit.

Kandel, 27, ran the length of the field, scaled a 6-foot fence that surrounds the training center and rushed over to the apartments, banging on the doors on each of the three floors.

``I think I woke the guy up on the second floor, told him there was a fire and asked him to check again for me on the first floor,″ Kandel said. ``Then I went to the third floor and that guy seemed kind of out of it. I told him he needed to get out. There was smoke and flames everywhere, and I kind of had to help him get down the stairs.″

Jerry Simmons, Carolina’s strength coach, and head trainer Ryan Vermillion followed Kandel over the fence and helped evacuate the surrounding apartments.

Simmons, who cut his hand as he climbed the fence, kicked in a door because he worried when no one answered it.

``All we thought about was getting the people out,″ Simmons said, his right hand stitched up and heavily bandaged. ``One guy said something about cats, so we tried to go in and look around, but once we got that whiff of smoke, we turned around.″

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