PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Two Philadelphia firefighters were killed early this morning while battling a massive warehouse fire in Kensington. Two other firefighters were injured.
A posting on the Facebook page for Engine 7, Ladder 10 has identified the firefighters who lost their lives:
“It is with deep regret that the Fire Commissioner Ayers announces the death of Lt. Robert Neary and FF Daniel Sweeney, both from Ladder 10, who were killed in the line of duty. Lt Neary and FF Sweeney died on Box 361 Front and York Streets, which was dispatched at 0313 hrs on April 9th, 2012.”
Neary was 59 years old and Sweeney was 25 years old.
According to a statement released by the firefighters’ union, Neary had 38 years with the Philadelphia Fire Department after serving three years in the Philadelphia Police Department. He leaves behind a wife and three children.
Sweeney, according to the union statement, joined the fire department in 2006 and is the son of a retired Philadelphia fire captain.
“We are asking for prayers for the family. We are asking for everybody to be supportive,” Philadelphia fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers said at a morning press conference.
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The statement from the firefighters’ union provided additional information on the two firefighters who were seriously injured: Francis Chaney and Pat Nally. Nally is a five-year veteran, according to the union, and was listed in critical but stable condition. Chaney is an eight-year veteran of the Philadelphia Fire Department and was listed in stable condition.
As of mid-morning, Philadelphia fire crews were still on the scene of the fire that started in a large warehouse at Jasper and York Streets in Kensington and quickly spread to at least four neighboring homes and several businesses.
Calls for the fire came in at about 3:13 a.m. and the fire quickly went to five alarms before being placed under control at about 5:21 a.m.
Firefighters were in the adjacent furniture store at 5:50 a.m. after the fire was placed under control doing a routine check when the walls around them collapsed, trapping the five firemen. Authorities said one of the firefighters was able to “self extricate,” but Neary, Sweeney, Nally and Chaney, had to be pulled from the rubble by fellow firemen. Neary was pronounced dead at the scene and Sweeney died at Temple University Hospital. Officials said medics performed CPR on Nally who was then stabilized at the hospital and is listed in guarded condition in the ICU. Chaney was also transported to Temple where he was treated and released.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who is out of town, said is statement, “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.”
Ayers said during this time of tragedy, his department comes together as one.
“We come together as a band of brothers and sisters. We support each other, we stay together — firefighters, paramedics, officers,” said Ayers. “We’re getting a lot of support. Just as we give service to our citizens, they’re serving us right now.”
The cause of fire is still under investigation by the fire marshal’s office.
This is the first line-of-duty death for the Philadelphia Fire Department in more than six years. The last time the department lost multiple members was in August 2004, when two firefighters were killed while battling a house fire.
Residents from 31 homes in the area of the fire were evacuated to a shelter at BVM Church, at B Street and Lehigh Avenue.
There were some lingering power outages in the area, and three Kensington schools were closed due to the power outages.
Late Monday evening, David Feuerstein of the New York-based law firm Herrick, released the following statement on behalf of the firm’s client, York Street Property Development LP:
“This is an unspeakable tragedy. Our condolences and heartfelt prayers go out to the families of Lieutenant Neary and Firefighter Sweeney, and to their grieving colleagues at the Philadelphia Fire Department. We are cooperating, and will continue to do so, with all law enforcement and government agencies as they investigate this fire.”