FDNY Chief Killed in Pot Grow House Explosion in The Bronx, Officials Say

DNA Info - September 28, 2016

by Trevor Kapp, Aidan Gardiner, Murray Weiss and Carolina Pichardo

THE BRONX — An FDNY chief considered a "rising star" in the department, was killed and 14 first responders were injured when a marijuana grow house in a Kingsbridge home exploded Tuesday morning, officials and sources said. Firefighters were checking a report of a gas leak at 304 W. 234 St., near Tibbett Avenue, about 6:22 a.m. when they discovered what appeared to be a hydroponic marijuana growing lab with propane tanks, sources said.

Firefighters shut off the gas when they got on the scene before working with NYPD officers from the 50th Precinct and the Emergency Services Unit to evacuate the building and others nearby, sources said.

Emergency responders were in the street when the building exploded about an hour later, according to FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

"It was very loud. It just lasted for a real-quick second. I didn't know what it was. I thought a truck slammed into something. Everybody started running. Windows shook. I got really scared," said neighbor Maureen Murphy, 45.

Michael Fahy, chief of the 19th battalion, was standing in the street when a piece of the roof hit him in the head and body, Nigro said. Fahy, a 17-year veteran whose father was also an FDNY battalion chief, was pronounced dead at New York-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital, officials said.

"It's a sad day. Thankfully, this doesn't happen every day, but when it does, it doesn't make it any easier. That's all I can say. We lost a hero today and our members are saddened," said Nigro who was visibly shaken and knew Fahy's father.

"He was on the rise. He was a star. He was a brave man," Nigro said of Fahy, a father of two boys and a girl, 6, 8 and 11.

Nine firefighters, six police officers, three Con Edison workers and two civilians were also injured, Nigro said. The severity of those injuries wasn't immediately clear.

Investigators with the NYPD's Arson and Explosion Squad along with Bronx detectives were still trying to determine what sparked the explosion, said NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill.

They believe gas from the lab may have been the cause, since gas in the building had been shut off a half-hour before, sources said.

Police had been investigating a tip that there was a drug operation on that block since last week, O'Neill said.

It wasn't immediately clear how many people were evacuated from the building or who the lab belonged to.

Investigators were still trying to track down all the people who lived in the building at the time, O'Neill said.

"There are renters in the house. We're just looking to determine who they are right now," O'Neill said.

About 106 firefighters responded to the scene after the explosion, officials said.

The Red Cross planned to help those displaced by the blast, they said.