Fire Dept. Chief Killed in Bronx Explosion Is Promoted

NY Times - October 01, 2016


A 44-year-old battalion chief with the New York City Fire Department who was killed by debris after a house exploded in the Bronx this week has been promoted to deputy chief, the mayor and the fire commissioner said on Thursday.

The announcement came as investigators dug through the rubble on the property in the Kingsbridge neighborhood to determine if the blast had been caused by someone tampering with a gas line. The authorities have said marijuana was growing in the house and have arrested two men, though neither has been charged in connection with the explosion.

One of the men, Garivaldi Castillo, 32, of the Washington Heights neighborhood in Manhattan, was arraigned on felony drug possession charges on Thursday. The second man, Julio Jose Salcedo Contrer, 34, of Cliffside Park, N.J., was expected to face the same charges, the police said.

The explosion on Tuesday killed Chief Michael J. Fahy, a 17-year veteran, who was directing operations at the two-story house on West 234th Street, where firefighters were investigating a reported gas leak. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Daniel A. Nigro, the fire commissioner, announced Chief Fahy’s promotion on Thursday, and said he had passed the exam in 2013.

Chief Fahy “was a very talented member of the F.D.N.Y. who died protecting and serving our great city,” Mr. de Blasio said. “His career was remarkable both for his selfless devotion to duty and his meteoric ascension in rank, which continues today with this deserved promotion.”

Robert K. Boyce, the chief of detectives for the New York Police Department, said on Thursday that investigators had “recovered an enormous amount of material, pipes, meters” that would be taken to Maryland to be examined by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “Right now, we’re not there with any charges as far as manslaughter,” Chief Boyce said. “No determination has been made that this was a manslaughter or whatever tampering there is. We’re still a long way from that.”

Chief Fahy was the first firefighter to be killed in the line of duty since July 2014, and the 1,145th since the department’s founding in 1865. Chief Fahy, of Yonkers, left behind a wife and three young children.

Mr. Nigro recalled him as a “rising star” in the Fire Department. He joined as a firefighter in 1999, after a career in law, and quickly ascended the ranks as he served with engines, ladders and battalions spread across Manhattan and the Bronx. He was assigned to Battalion 19 in the Bronx.