Investigations begin in blaze that led to firefighter death

AP News
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Posted: Mar 27, 2015 12:32 PM
Investigations begin in blaze that led to firefighter death

CINCINNATI (AP) — Multiple investigations are probing the cause of an apartment blaze and the "heartbreaking" death of a veteran Cincinnati firefighter, the city's fire chief said Friday.

Chief Richard Braun said besides trying to determine the fire's origin, local authorities will launch a wide-ranging investigation into the circumstances of 29-year firefighter Daryl Gordon's death and will review department policies and procedures. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health also will investigate.

"We'll look at the entire fire and everything that went on," Braun said at a news conference. The Ohio State Fire Marshal's office said it was available to help the investigation if needed.

City officials said the 54-year-old Gordon died at a hospital Thursday morning after falling down an elevator shaft while looking for people to rescue in a burning apartment building. The early morning blaze brought crews and equipment from across the city.

"Every time we go out on a fire, we put our lives at risk," said Braun, whose department last lost a firefighter in the line of duty in 2003. "You can do everything right, and still things can go wrong."

He called Gordon a dedicated firefighter who was "exceptional on his job" and cheerful and well-liked in the department.

"Yesterday's fire was a heartbreaking experience," Braun said. He said firefighters rescued 12 people from the building — others escaped on their own — and four were taken to hospitals. One was a 3-month-old baby, he said, but there was no immediate update on their conditions.

He said two firefighters were treated for burns and one for smoke inhalation.

Building resident Lauren Brown told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the building elevator was unreliable and said some residents didn't use it because it was "kind of iffy."

A spokeswoman for the building's owners said the elevator had been inspected and serviced and that no safety citations were on record for the building in the past year.

Boston-based The Community Builders Inc., a nonprofit development company, bought the apartments in Cincinnati's Madisonville neighborhood in 2012 as part of a portfolio of "occupied troubled multifamily properties in the midst of foreclosure," it said in a statement.

Spokeswoman Stephanie Anderson Garrett said the company has invested in safety and health repairs at the properties since acquiring them.

"The Community Builders is committed to the safe operation of our properties," she said.

Gordon, who joined the department in 1985, leaves behind a wife and two daughters.

Fire officials are coordinating with the family on funeral arrangements for next week. Braun said there has been an outpouring of support from the community and from fire departments across the country.

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