A firefighter died and five other people were injured, two of them seriously, when they became trapped in a building in Philadelphia that caught fire and later collapsed early Saturday morning, authorities said.
The fire was reported shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday at a building in North Philadelphia. Eight people who were inside were rescued safe and sound and shortly after it was indicated that the fire had already been extinguished, according to the authorities.
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The building collapsed at 3:24 a.m., said Craig Murphy, deputy commissioner of the Fire Department.
Lt. Sean Williamson, 51, was pronounced dead at the scene after he and another firefighter were freed from the rubble hours after the collapse. Three other firefighters and an inspector from the city’s Department of Licensing and Inspections were quickly rescued. A firefighter jumped from the second floor and avoided being trapped as the building collapsed, Murphy added.
Two firefighters were in critical but stable condition at Temple University Hospital, and the other three victims were treated and released, authorities said.
Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel told reporters Saturday night that rescuers “were able to communicate with” Williamson and another firefighter for most of the hours they were trapped, but due to the extent of the collapse and the location of Williamson inside the structure “we couldn’t save him.”
The former Marine was “highly respected throughout our department” and had trained “countless” cadets, Thiel said. Williamson will have a Fire Department funeral with “full honors.”
“Given the tremendous support that I have seen and have seen as a department, expect it to be a pretty big event,” he added.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney called it “a heartbreaking day for our city.”
“For more than 27 years, (Williamson) dedicated his life to serving and protecting the people of Philadelphia and sacrificed his life protecting others,” Kenney said in a statement. “Early this morning, like every day, he exemplified heroism by doing what our first responders do every day: Put on their uniform, drop off their loved ones, and do their sworn duty to protect and serve the residents of this city.” .
The fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause of the fire with the help of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).