PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia firefighters mourned the loss of one of their own in the line of duty for the third time in less than a year, saluting the body of a veteran captain as it was carried from the ruins of a three-story building that collapsed underneath him during a blaze.
At an emotional news conference late Saturday after the fire in the city’s Fabric Row section was extinguished, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers told reporters that the victim, 53-year-old Capt. Michael Goodwin, was his friend and “a ladder man. A firefighter’s firefighter.”
“He’s the kind of guy who looked out for his folks — a big guy,” Ayers said. Goodwin had been with the department for 29 years.
A colleague of the fallen firefighter, 28-year-old Andrew Godlinski, was burned on his hands while trying to rescue his comrade, officials said. Godlinski was discharged from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital on Sunday, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The loss came as the fire department prepared to mark a year since an April 9 blaze at a warehouse that killed Capt. Robert Neary, 59, and Daniel Sweeney, 25. They also died in a collapse, which came as they inspected an adjacent building.
“We have a department that is wounded,” Ayers said. “We have scars that are fresh, and indeed they have now been reopened.”
Mayor Michael Nutter on Sunday asked residents to pray for Goodwin, his family and other grieving firefighters.
“We must never forget the grave risks that these heroic public servants take every day at a moment’s notice on behalf of us all,” he said.
Saturday’s fire appeared to have started in a fabric store downstairs before spreading to upstairs apartments and a neighboring boutique, the store’s owner said. The proprietors of both stores told The Philadelphia Inquirer that everyone in both buildings at the time of the fire managed to escape.
The fire’s cause wasn’t immediately known, but Bruce Blumenthal, the owner of Jack B. Fabrics, said he believes it started in a wall and may have been electrical in nature.
Blumenthal said he smelled smoke coming from the basement at around 5 p.m. and found a box of collars and cuffs on fire. He tried to put the flames out with an extinguisher, to no avail.
At the scene Sunday afternoon, a fire hose planted in the middle of the street sprayed a jet of water onto the remains of the building, which had collapsed into a pile that stretched over the sidewalk in between two other three-story row homes. A Red Cross official said several residents forced to leave had found other places to stay, but meals and counseling services were being provided for grieving firefighters.
At Goodwin’s fire station deep in south Philadelphia, the flag was at half-staff and bouquets were clustered on and around a wooden bench along with a large toy fire truck and ladder.
Goodwin was on the roof of the building when it collapsed, trapping him inside. Godlinski tried to rescue him before a second-floor roof and two walls also collapsed, officials said.
Goodwin is survived by a wife and two grown children, Ayers said.
The fire cut power to more than 300 customers.