WORCESTER (CBS) – One firefighter was killed and another was seriously injured when part of a burning apartment building collapsed in Worcester early Thursday morning.
Jon Davies, a 17-year veteran of the department, was killed when he and another firefighter went back to search for a missing person inside the burning building at 44 Arlington Street after 4 a.m.
The 43-year-old was a father of three sons, including two in the military, and one of them is currently serving in Afghanistan. Davies was also engaged.
Davies responded to the deadly Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse Fire back in December 1999, when six Worcester firefighters were killed.
When Thursday’s fire started, there were 12 people inside.
Worcester Fire Chief Gerard Dio said Davies and his partner Brian Carroll, a 14-year veteran of the force, initially went through the building looking for trapped residents and then left. They re-entered the first floor of the burning building after someone claimed his friend was still stuck inside.
“Two crews went up to do a secondary search for the individual and there was a structural collapse, and at that time, two firefighters were trapped,” said Chief Dio.
Officials said Davies was pinned by debris on the first floor, while the collapse sent Carroll sliding into the basement. Carroll spent an hour trapped in basement before crews could reach him.
WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports
“After the fire went on for an hour and a half, I saw… the back of the building had collapsed and the firemen were punching a big hole through the foundation to get to the basement. And I saw them bring gurneys over,” said a neighbor.
WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager reports
The two firefighters were pulled from the rear of the building and rushed to UMass Medical Center. Davies later died from his injuries. Carroll is expected to survive.
Davies and Carroll were both members of Worcester’s Special Operations Technical Team and the Worcester Fire Scuba Dive Team.
The person they were looking for still has not been accounted for. It is unclear whether there was ever a person stuck in the building to begin with. Investigators say there is an active search for that person.
Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, who was a Worcester City Councilor during Cold Storage Warehouse Fire, arrived in Worcester Thursday morning to offer his condolences.
“People throw around the word ‘heroes’ a lot, but again, this is proof-positive of what our firefighters do,” said Lt. Gov. Murray.
Murray later released a statement saluting the Worcester Firefighters and offering sympathies on behalf of Gov. Patrick, who is currently out of the country.
“When duty called, they answered, and in the face of a deadly fire, they responded quickly to protect their fellow citizens. Now, it is up to all of us to offer our prayers and reach out in any way we can to provide comfort and support for those who suffered so greatly,” the statement read in part.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports.
A neighbor said this is at least the third major fire in this crowded neighborhood in recent years. Inspectors said the property had numerous building code and sanitary code violations that the owner failed to address. Worcester City Manager Michael O’Brien said an unlawful heating device, structural deficiencies in the foundation wall, mice, and rats were just some of the issues cited. The city says the owner was uncooperative in fixing many of those issues and officials were in the process of taking that owner to court. A court date was scheduled for December 12.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones reports.
Reaction to the death poured out from other state agencies.
“We offer our condolences to the members of the Worcester Fire Department. Know that you are in our thoughts on this sorrowful day,” said the Boston Fire Department on Twitter.
“The Mass. State Police extend deepest condolences to the Worcester Fire Department. A hero who gave the irrevocable gift: his own life,” said the Mass. State Police in a released statement.
The fire started inside the back of the building. The cause is still under investigation.
The state Fire Marshall’s office is looking for photos or video from the early moments of the fire to help with the investigation. Anyone who can assist is asked to call the arson hotline at 1-800-682-9229.