House ex­plo­sion kills fire bat­tal­ion chief, a ris­ing star

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - STATE NEWS - By Verena Dobnik

NEW YORK >> A bat­tal­ion chief who had been con­sid­ered a ris­ing star in the Fire Depart­ment of New York was killed Tues­day when a row house ex­ploded as he was su­per­vis­ing an evac­u­a­tion fol­low­ing a re­port of a gas leak, and au­thor­i­ties are look­ing into whether the build­ing was be­ing used to grow mar­i­juana.

The two-story house and ad­join­ing homes in the Bronx had al­ready been emp­tied of oc­cu­pants and fire per­son­nel had been on the scene for an hour when the 7:30 a.m. blast jolted neigh­bors awake, tore off the build­ing’s roof and hurled pieces of wood and brick into the street.

Michael Fahy, a 17-year fire depart­ment vet­eran and fa­ther of three, was di­rect­ing op­er­a­tions from the street when he was hit by fall­ing de­bris, au­thor­i­ties said.

“It is a re­minder of the dan­gers that our first re­spon­ders face every day, the dan­gers that the men and women of the FDNY face and the brav­ery with which they do their job,” Demo­cratic Mayor Bill de Bla­sio said af­ter meet­ing with Fahy’s fam­ily at a hos­pi­tal.

Po­lice Com­mis­sioner James O’Neill said that about two weeks ago po­lice had re­ceived in­for­ma­tion about pos­si­ble drug ac­tiv­ity on the block. Part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ex­plo­sion will in­clude a probe of whether the home was a mar­i­juana “grow house,” he said.

The cause of the blast hadn’t been de­ter­mined. The force of the blast moved mugs in a cabi­net sev­eral houses away, said res­i­dent Mary Lahti, who also had dust cov­er­ing her fur­ni­ture.

Fahy, who was pro­moted to chief in June 2012, had a doc­tor­ate from New York Law School. He got his un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree from New York’s Bing­ham­ton Univer­sity in 1994 and his mas­ter’s de­gree at the Cen­ter for Home­land De­fense and Se­cu­rity’s Naval Post­grad­u­ate School, ac­cord­ing to ed­u­ca­tion records.

“He was on the rise; he was a star,” fire Com­mis­sioner Daniel Ni­gro said.

The com­mis­sioner said he was a con­tem­po­rary of Fahy’s fa­ther, who had been a fire chief be­fore his son.

Res­i­dents milled around in the af­ter­math: de­bris strewn on the street and cov­er­ing parked cars; the for­mer house a man­gled heap of walls, wiring and twisted metal. Au­thor­i­ties said the house had renters, and they were look­ing into who they were.

“The ex­plo­sion felt like a bomb on my house,” said Ni­cholas Kolo­touros, who lives across the street. “We got scared, and we jumped out of bed. We didn’t know what it was.”

Within min­utes, po­lice told him to leave his house, one of a lineup of two-story homes on a tree­lined street.

Lahti woke up around 6:30 a.m. “smelling some­thing odd, but I wasn’t sure what it was,” she said. “It didn’t smell like gas, re­ally.”

She went back to sleep. The ex­plo­sion woke her up an hour later.

“I thought it was a car that ran into the house, the way the house shook,” she said. “I was jolted out of bed.”

When she looked out the win­dow, she said, “it was a lot of smoke, a lot of smoke.” Hours later, oc­ca­sional whiffs of smoke still floated over the neigh­bor­hood.

WABC-TV — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

In this frame from video pro­vided by WABC-TV, smoke rises from a house that ex­ploded in the Bronx bor­ough of New York on Tues­day. Au­thor­i­ties said fire­fight­ers re­sponded to a re­port of a gas leak right be­fore the house ex­ploded.

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