Two Philadelphia Firefighters Injured, One Critically

A section of a warehouse roof collapsed during a fire in Northeast Philadelphia late last night, injuring two veteran firefighters as they fell 20 feet to the hard ground.

The blaze broke out shortly before 10 p.m. at an auto shop tucked inside an industrial complex on the 4800 block of Wingate Street in the city’s Holmesburg section.

Firefighters Bob Underwood, 47, and Raymond Rajchel, 54, ascended to the roof to cut out a hole for ventilation, said Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.

“This roof seemed solid enough. It was covered with asbestos and cement,” Ayers said. “But when they cut it, it gave way.”

Underwood, a 23-year-veteran, was able to break his fall. Rajchel, a 34-year-veteran, landed hard and cracked several bones.

The firefighters were rushed to Frankford Torresdale Hospital. Underwood was treated and able to walk out of the emergency room with his wife, Ayers said.

Rajchel spent most of Thursday in surgery as doctors worked to repair fractures in his arm and ribs, Ayers said.

The blaze, which threw off thick clouds of heavy smoke, was under control in 22 minutes, Ayers said.

It may have been sparked by a battery pack that had been misused and left plugged in, Ayers said.

“We found several violations at the site,” Ayers said, adding the shop was also missing required licences and zoning permits.

West Coast 911 firefighting news source – The Philadelphia Inquirer

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