NBC10 Philadelphia - Deanna Durante
Flames broke out early Monday morning at an empty factory in Kensington. Lt. Robert Neary, and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney died while battling the fire and three others were injured. The cause of the fire is being investigated. NBC10's Deanna Durante reports.
Two firefighters were killed and two injured while battling a five-alarm fire at a factory, located at 1817 East York Street in Kensington, according to Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.
The firefighters, identified as Lt. Robert Neary, 60, and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney, 25, were from Ladder 10, on Kensington and Castor Avenue. Messages of support from across the country are pouring into the station's Facebook page.
The fire broke out just before 3:30 a.m. Neighbors tell NBC10 that factory has been abandoned for decades, but that it used to be a manufacturing center for ladies' hosiery.
The fallen firefighters, that Commissioner Ayers called "a veteran firefighter and a new firefighter" were killed when they headed in to investigate an extension of the factory fire at an adjacent furniture store. The rear wall of that building collapsed, according to Ayers.
The collapse happened just before 6 a.m., about a half hour after the fire was placed under control. It took rescuing fire crews about two hours to find those firefighters and get them out of the collapsed building.
"There was bricks, heavy timber, all kinds of other debris was on top of them. Actually the roof actually came in as well, so some of that materials had to cut, but a lot of it had to be moved by hand and it's a hard and tedious job. And then at times our members were using their listening equipment-- they would stop and listen to see if they heard any sounds so we would know what direction to direct the search," said Ernest F. Hargett, Jr., Deputy Fire Commissioner.
Commissioner Ayers asked for prayers for the families, and described this as a loss for the community. "We come together as a band of brothers and sisters, we support each other, we stay together-- firefighters, paramedics, officers, the police, we're being supported. The hospital system, we're being supported. We are part of the community," Ayers said.
Firefighters and police officers lined up alongside each other outside Temple University Hospital just before 11 a.m., to salute those fallen firefighters during a procession, as their bodies were transported to the Medical Examiner's Office.
Lt. Neary spent 38 years with the Philadelphia Fire Department. Prior to becoming a firefighter, he served for three years as a Philadelphia police officer and 10 years as an Army reservist. Lt. Neary was a husband and father of three, according to a statement released by Firefighters Local 22 President Bill Gault.
Firefighter Sweeney became a firefighter in 2006, following in the footsteps of his father, retired Captain David Sweeney.
The flags were lowered to half-staff at Ladder 10, in honor of the two men. Mayor Nutter ordered flags in the city to be flown at half-staff for the next 30 days.
The two injured firefighters have been identified as Francis Cheney and Pat Nally. Firefighter Cheney has been treated and released. Firefighter Nally is in stable condition in the ICU at Temple University Hospital.
Mayor Michael Nutter released this statement -- "These firefighters made the ultimate sacrifice for the people of Philadelphia. This is a tremendous loss for their families and the City of Philadelphia. My prayers go out to their families and to the Philadelphia Fire Department whose members have lost two of their brothers."
Mayor Nutter, who was in Florida for a conference Monday morning, is expected back in Philadelphia Monday night.
Commissioner Ayers said the last time the Philadelphia Fire Department lost a firefighter was in 2006. The last time multiple firefighters were killed on the same call was in 2004.
Six nearby homes and one commercial building were damaged in the blaze. Dozens of residents were woken up in the middle of the night and told to get out of their homes after winds started blowing embers through the neighborhood. Three families whose homes were damaged are getting assistance from the Red Cross.