Brian D. Fahey, Firefighter 1st Grade

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Fire companies were dispatched to a report of a fire in a hardware store. The first- arriving engine company, which had been flagged down by civilians in the area prior to the dispatch, reported a working fire with smoke venting from a second-story window. A bystander brought the company officer from the first-arriving engine company to the rear of the building where smoke was observed venting from around a steel basement door. The first-arriving command officer was also shown the door and ordered an engine company to stretch a line to the rear of the building. A ladder company was ordered to the rear to assist in opening the door; Firefighter Downing was a member of this company. The first-due rescue company, including Firefighters Fahey and Ford, searched the first floor of the hardware store and assisted with forcible entry on the exterior. The incident commander directed firefighters at the rear of the building to open the rear door and attack the basement fire. Firefighters on the first floor were directed to keep the interior basement stairwell door closed and prevent the fire from extending. The rear basement door was reinforced, and a hydraulic rescue tool was employed to open it. Once the first door was opened, a steel gate was found inside, further delaying fire attack. Firefighters Downing and Ford were attempting to open basement windows on the side of the building, and Firefighter Fahey was inside of the structure on the first floor. An explosion occurred and caused major structural damage to the hardware store. Three firefighters were trapped under debris from a wall that collapsed on the side of the hardware store; several firefighters were trapped on the second floor; firefighters who were on the roof prior to the explosion were blown upwards with several firefighters riding debris to the street below; and firefighters on the street were knocked over by the force of the explosion. The explosion trapped and killed Firefighters Downing and Ford under the collapsed wall; their deaths were immediate. Firefighter Fahey was blown into the basement of the structure. He called for help on his radio, but firefighters were unable to reach him in time. The cause of death for Firefighters Downing and Ford was internal trauma, and the cause of death for Firefighter Fahey was listed as asphyxiation. Firefighter Fahey’s carboxyhemoglobin level was found to be 63%. In addition to the three fatalities, 99 firefighters were injured at this incident. The fire was caused when children - two boys, ages 13 and 15 - knocked over a gasoline can at the rear of the hardware store. The gasoline flowed under the rear doorway and was eventually ignited by the pilot flame on a hot water heater.

Department information

Fire Department City of New York
9 Metro Tech Center
Brooklyn, New York 11201

Chief: Commissioner Thomas Von Essen

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Brian D. Fahey was honored on the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland and was included in the USFA’s annual report Firefighter Fatalities in the United States.
Age: 46
Rank: Firefighter 1st Grade
Classification: Career
Incident date: June 17, 2001 14:30
Date of death: June 17, 2001
Cause of death: Struck By
Nature of death: Asphyxiation
Activity type: Search and Rescue
Emergency duty: Yes
Duty type: On-Scene Fire
Fixed property use: Store/Office