Fire captain killed, firefighter injured in Queen Village blaze

Philadelphia Fire Department Captain Michael Goodwin, 53, died fighting a 3-alarm fire in Queen Village on Saturday April 6, 2013.

April 9, 2013 10:21:48 PM PDT
A Philadelphia fire captain was killed and another firefighter was injured in a 3-alarm fire at a fabric building in Queen Village.

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The flames broke out around 6:00 p.m. Saturday on the 700 block of South 4th Street and spread to several row homes.

Philadelphia firefighters are now mourning the loss of one of their own in the line of duty for the third time in less than a year, saluting the body of a veteran captain as it was carried from the ruins of the three-story building that collapsed underneath him during a blaze.

At an emotional news conference late Saturday after the fire in the city's Fabric Row section was extinguished, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers told reporters that the victim, 53-year-old Capt. Michael Goodwin, was his friend and "a ladder man. A firefighter's firefighter."

"He's the kind of guy who looked out for his folks - a big guy," Ayers said. Goodwin, from Ladder Co. 27, had been with the department for 29 years.

A colleague of the fallen firefighter, 28-year-old Andrew Godlewski, was burned on his hands while trying to rescue his comrade, officials said. Godlewski was treated overnight at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and released before noon on Sunday.

The loss came as the Fire Department prepared to mark a year since an April 9 blaze at a warehouse that killed Capt. Robert Neary, 59, and Daniel Sweeney, 25. They also died in a collapse, which came as they inspected an adjacent building.

"We have a department that is wounded," Ayers said. "We have scars that are fresh, and indeed they have now been reopened."

Saturday's fire appeared to have started in a fabric store downstairs, Jack B. Fabrics, before spreading to upstairs apartments and a neighboring boutique, the store's owner said. The proprietors of both stores told The Philadelphia Inquirer that everyone in both buildings at the time of the fire managed to escape.

The fire's cause wasn't immediately known, but Bruce Blumenthal, the owner of Jack B. Fabrics, said he believes it started in a wall and may have been electrical in nature.

Blumenthal said he smelled smoke coming from the basement around 5 p.m. and found a box of collars and cuffs on fire. He tried to put the flames out with an extinguisher, to no avail.

"He got a fire extinguisher and the thought he had put it out, but if you ask me I think it was in the walls of the building," said Cindy Ray, owner of neighborhing business Urban Princess.

Goodwin was on the roof of the building when it collapsed, trapping him inside. Godlewski tried to rescue him before a second-floor roof and two walls also collapsed, officials said.

Goodwin is survived by a wife and two grown children, Ayers said. Officials tell Action News he had just taken the test to become a fire chief, and he will be posthumously promoted.

The fire cut power to more than 300 customers. The Red Cross is assisting at least 17 people.

Mayor Michael Nutter ordered flags to be at half staff for the next 30 days in honor of the fallen hero.

The mayor issued the following statement Sunday morning:

"Today, we mourn the loss of Captain Michael Goodwin of the Philadelphia Fire Department and the injury to Firefighter Andrew Godlewski who tried to save him. Captain Goodwin was a leader who for 29 years put on the uniform of our respected department and risked his life on a daily basis in order to protect all of us from the ravages of fire and destruction. On Saturday, while leading his ladder company in the suppression of a raging fire, Michael Goodwin, husband, father of two, brother to three siblings, perished in the inferno.

"I ask all Philadelphians to join me in prayer for this heroic man, for his wife Kelly and their children, his mother Betty, and their extended family and for the members of the Philadelphia Fire Department who have all suffered a grievous loss. I also ask that Philadelphians communicate our great sorrow and condolences to Capt. Goodwin's fellow officers in the finest firefighting force in America. We must never forget the grave risks that these heroic public servants take every day at a moment's notice on behalf of us all.

"Like Capt. Goodwin, Firefighter Andrew Godlewski, a five-year veteran, fought the blazing fire and with all of his professional training risked his life in an effort to save Capt. Goodwin. Please join with me in praying for Firefighter Godlewski's swift recovery.

"Finally, this tragedy comes just three days before the one-year anniversary of the deaths of Lt. Robert P. Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney who gave their lives fighting a raging warehouse fire in Kensington. Members of the Philadelphia Fire Department are in mourning again for one of their own and recall these two fallen heroes. 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."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.