A firefighter died on Saturday while responding to a fire and subsequent building collapse in Philadelphia, authorities said Saturday. Four other firefighters and an employee of the city’s permits and inspections department were injured in the incident.
In a statement Saturday afternoon, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney identified the firefighter as 51-year-old Lieutenant Sean Williamson. He was a 27-year veteran of the department, leaving behind his mother and son.
“This is a heartbreaking day for our city,” the mayor said. “For over 27 years, he devoted his life to serving and protecting the people of Philadelphia, and he sacrificed his life to protect others.”
Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said in a statement from the city that the department is “mourning” along with the community.
“It is not possible to put into words what we are feeling right now,” he added.
According to the city’s press release, authorities responded to the fire in the Fairhill neighborhood of Philadelphia just before 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Eight residents were evacuated and the fire was brought under control more than an hour later.
However, just after 3 a.m., the building collapsed while the fire service was still working. Three firefighters – identified as Lieutenant Sylvester Burton, Fire Marshal; Lieutenant Clarence Johnson; and firefighter Dennis Bailey – as well as Thomas Rybakowski, an emergency services supervisor for the Department of Licenses and Inspections – were detained. They were quickly rescued and taken to hospital.
Firefighters Robert Brennan and Williamson then became trapped under rubble while conducting a search and rescue operation after the collapse. They were freed from the rubble around 7 a.m., but Williamson was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the city.
As of Saturday afternoon, Brennan and Bailey remain in critical but stable condition, while the others who were injured have been released.
Authorities had the collapse under control just before 7:15 a.m. It is unclear what caused the fire and an investigation is underway.
The mayor said flags will be flown at half-mast for 30 days to honor Williamson.
Editor’s Note: Age of the fallen firefighter has been corrected in this story.