Building collapse after fire kills 1 firefighter; 5 injured

PHILADELPHIA CREAM — A building caught fire and then collapsed in Philadelphia, killing a firefighter and injuring six others, two critically, after everything became trapped early Saturday, authorities said.

The fire was reported just before 2 a.m. Saturday at the North Philadelphia apartment building, eight occupants were safely evacuated and the fire was declared under control, officials said. At 3:24 a.m., the building collapsed, Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said.

Lt. Sean Williamson, 51, was pronounced dead at the scene after he and another firefighter were freed from the rubble hours after the collapse. Three other firefighters and an inspector from the city’s permit and inspection department were quickly released. A firefighter jumped from the second floor to avoid being caught in the collapse, Murphy said. Two firefighters were listed in critical but stable condition at Temple University Hospital while the other three victims were treated and released, officials said.

Fire Marshal Adam Thiel said in a statement Saturday afternoon that the department is in mourning with “family, friends and the community.” He added: “It is not possible to express in words what we are feeling at the moment.” Murphy had told reporters during a briefing around 8 a.m. Saturday that “it’s going to be a tough few weeks ahead.”

Mayor Jim Kenney called it “a heartbreaking day for our city.”

“For more than 27 years, he has dedicated his life to serving and protecting the people of Philadelphia, and has sacrificed his life to protect others,” Kenney’s statement read. “Early this morning, like every day, he exemplified heroism by doing what our first responders do every day: putting on their uniforms, leaving their loved ones and fulfilling their duty to protect and serve the people of this town. “

The Office of the Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the fire with assistance from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Investigators were trying to find out what caused the collapse. Murphy said the building was impacted by the fire, but it was unclear what caused it to collapse.

Many firefighters stood nearby as the rescue effort unfolded, and some were seen hugging or wiping tears from their eyes, multiple news outlets reported.

Patricia Sermarini told the Philadelphia Inquirer that she rushed to the site when she saw the alert about the collapse because her son-in-law, a firefighter, was on the morning shift. She said he had been one of the firefighters on the scene but got out of the building just before it collapsed.

But moments later, Sermarini said, she saw firefighters pull a body from the rubble.

“It’s so terrible,” she said. “It’s so hard for them. They just want to go home to their families.


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