Veteran firefighter killed in roof collapse during Queen Village blaze
A veteran firefighter was killed Saturday evening and his colleague was injured when the roof a Queen Village fabric store partially collapsed during a three-alarm blaze.
Capt. Michael Goodwin, 53, of Ladder 27 Platoon B, fell through the third-floor roof of Jack B. Fabrics on the 700 block of South 4th Street near Fitzwater Street, according to authorities.
Officials said the building’s second-floor roof and wall then partially collapsed, trapping Goodwin inside.
Capt. Goodwin is a 29-year veteran of the department who would have celebrated 30 years of service in September.
Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, who called Goodwin a friend, described the man at a press conference Saturday night as “the kind of guy that looked out for his folks” and said he was “a ladder man, firefighter’s firefighter.”
Firefighter Andrew Godlewski, 28, a five-year veteran also stationed with Ladder 27, was injured as he attempted to assist his comrade.
He was in stable condition at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital with his family is by his side, Ayers said Saturday night.
Godlewski was reportedly released from the hospital Sunday afternoon.
A total of three buildings were damaged and seven people were evacuated due to the fire but have relatives that can house them, according to the Office of Emergency Management.
The Red Cross is assisting 17 people affected by the blaze.
Ayers said firefighters responded to the shop on Fabric Row shortly after 5:30 p.m. for reports of smoke coming from the first floor of the three-story storefront, which had apartments above.
“They faced heavy smoke, heavy fire – the store is a store that sells fabric,” he said. “Just from the exterior you can see bolts of fabric all over the store.”
He said firefighters rescued one person from the dwelling.
A second alarm was struck shortly after 6 p.m. as the fire spread upstairs and to a neighboring boutique.
“The second alarm that was struck by Deputy Chief Wilkins was because of the heavy volume of fire and because of seeing that we needed a lot of staffing power as well as the water to get this fire under control,” Ayers said.
A third alarm was struck less than 30 minutes later.
By that time, firefighters had already received a report of a member down – Goodwin had fallen through the third-floor roof and was trapped on the second-floor roof.
That alert was shortly followed by a report of a member missing.
“Firefighters were trying to rescue [Goodwin] from the second-floor roof when that roof collapsed,” Ayers said.
Godlewski, who was injured as he attempted to save Goodwin, was rescued and taken to the hospital. Goodwin could no longer be seen.
What ensued was a “very dangerous firefighting situation,” according to Ayers, as members attempted to control the flames and locate Goodwin while contending with partial roof and wall collapses.
“All of our resources were trying to fight the fire and at the same time rescue this captain,” he said.
He said once Goodwin was found, rescue units had to cut through a partially-collapsed roof to remove him from the rubble.
“The captain was then taken by a medic unit to the hospital,” Ayers said. “But he had been pronounced dead on the scene.”
Goodwin leaves behind a wife, two children and three siblings, including a brother who services with the Philadelphia Police Department Narcotics Unit.
“Right now we’re asking for prayers from all of the city, from everyone, to support this family,” Ayers said. “This family is grieving.”
He said the department is also grieving – the tragedy comes nearly one year to the day after firefighters Daniel Sweeney and Lt. Robert Neary were killed in a partial wall collapse as they conducted a safety check during a Kensington warehouse fire.
Their memorial service is Tuesday.
“We have a department that’s wounded,” Ayers said.
“We have scars. They’re fresh and deep and now they have been reopened. And we’re going to do the things that we need to do to move through this.”
Firefighters and paramedics union Local 22 sergeant-at-arms Jack Eltman, who previously worked with both Sweeney and Lt. Neary, said Sunday he also befriended Goodwin after the captain helped paint his home.
“For this to happen within a year of three days to our April 9 anniversary – words cannot express how we feel for the families of Mike Goodwin and our second family in the firehouse as well,” Eltman said.
“Mike was a great guy. He’ll never be forgotten. Everything he did was positive.” He said the captain was well-known all around the city as someone always willing to pitch in and help his brothers.
“He was one of those rough, gruff, giant, loud guys yet such a teddy bear if you got to know him,” Eltman said. “He was amazing.”
As far as a cause of the fire or of Capt. Goodwin’s death, authorities said it’s too early in the investigation to release much information.
“The Fire Marshal is on the scene,” Ayers said. “He’s going to be on the scene for some time. It’s a lot of devastation there – we have collapsed walls, collapsed roofs.”
In the meantime, officials are asking citizens to be supportive of Fire Department members and their families.
“The mayor has ordered the flags to fly at half-staff for 30 days as is our protocol in honor of the heroic nature in what we have lost today,” Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison said Saturday.
“Members of the Philadelphia Fire Department are in mourning again for one of their own and recall these two fallen heroes,” Mayor Michael Nutter said on Sunday in a statement.
“Our firefighters need our support and prayers, but we know that every minute of every day, they are protecting us with all their skill and heart and we thank them.”