Firefighters rescued from basement of twin home
…these fatalities were the second and third among Philadelphia firefighters this year… in January, Fire Lt. Derrick Harvey, 45, died after he was critically burned at a one-alarm house fire…
TWO FIREFIGHTERS were killed and a third injured when they became trapped in the basement where a one-alarm fire destroyed a Port Richmond home last night. Thick, black smoke poured from the two-story twin home in a row of so-called “doll houses” on Belgrade Street near Orthodox, just blocks from where three ladder and engine companies were to be closed due to city budget cuts.
Killed were Capt. John Taylor, 53, and firefighter Rey Rubio, 42. Both men were assigned to Engine Company 28, and vocal critics of the city’s plan to slash their engines, a move that has been put on hold by the courts.
The name of the injured firefighter was not released last night. Taylor was a 32-year veteran and was the father of two children. Rubio, a 12-year veteran, was not married, city officials said. “These firefighters were engaged in doing the thing that the Fire Department does and does well,” said a heavy-hearted Mayor Street outside fire headquarters last night. “They were fighting what we thought was a simple rowhouse fire…” Street called the firefighters “members of our family, the city’s family. “There is nothing more sad than to be at a hospital and see fallen firefighters…who have given their lives in the line of duty,” the mayor said. Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said he had worked at one point with both men. “It’s a sad day for the city,” Ayers said, saying the two men died in a “fierce firefight.”Ray Mooney, 59, who has lived on the block five years, said he saw an elderly woman, looking dazed, on the steps of the house while black smoke poured out of the front door.”She seemed out of it. Then, a big whiff of black smoke came out of the house,” he said. “The smoke kept getting thicker and thicker as if it were growing. There were no flames at all, just black smoke,” he added. Firefighters were dispatched to the fire at 8 p.m. When they arrived and entered the house, they ran into trouble, according to firefighters at the scene. Taylor pressed his distress button, that they were down. Initial reports were that a floor had collapsed, trapping them. A Fire Department source said that the fire turned into a “flash over” when gases inside become so heated that they ignite.Vera Ravenna, 80, who lives on the same block, was getting ready to go to to the shore when she saw the blinking lights and ran outside. “I saw them trying to resuscitate [the firefighter] in the middle of the street. Then, they brought another one of them out,” Ravenna said. “I got so upset when they brought the fireman out. I just got upset. There are three firehouses around here they want to close.” Five people escaped the blaze, including Danny Frasco and Judy Frasco. According to city records, the house is owned by Anthony V. and Mary Jane Frasco. Their relationships could not be determined last night.The mostly elderly residents who live in homes on the well-manicured block on Belgrade Street near Orthodox Street were upset. As small American flags flew from the houses, residents watched firefighters try to revive one fireman while another was carried out of the twin house. The fire was under control at 9:12 p.m., authorities said. Haz-mat crews remained on standby because of the gases. Many of the residents had attended rallies an an effort to save the engine companies. Patty-Pat Koz-lowski, 27, works for City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski, and is president of the Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic Association.
“You always think it’s never going to happen in your neighborhood. We had hundreds of people out tonight. This is what we rallied for.”
Catherine Carr, 70, lives about six houses from the fire, said she was watching TV when the engines came roaring down the street the wrong way.”I came out and I see all the smoke coming out of that house. It was all black smoke. You couldn’t see any flames. “This is one bad fire…And they want to close the firehouse? We need them. What if this fire station wasn’t here? A few more houses would have gone up,” said Carr, who attended local rallies to save the firehouse.