HAMILTON, Ohio – A firefighter battling a house fire died after falling through a floor into the basement soon after entering the southwest Ohio home early Monday, authorities said.
Hamilton officials said firefighter Patrick Wolterman's death was the department's first in the line of duty since 1971. Fire department officials say he was hired in April after years of experience with other local departments and was recently married.
"Our city is in mourning with the loss of one of our heroes," said J. Scott Scrimizzi, director of public safety for the city of 60,000 people about 30 miles north of Cincinnati. He urged people to keep Wolterman's family and the fire department in their prayers.
Fire officials said crews responding to a fire call found heavy smoke coming from three sides of the house. Fire Chief Steve Dawson said firefighters including Wolterman moved into the house.
"Shortly after the initial attack, there was a catastrophic event," Dawson told reporters. He said Wolterman fell through the floor into the basement.
Fellow firefighters rescued Wolterman from the basement and performed CPR, but he died at Fort Hamilton Hospital, officials said.
Other units extinguished the fire, Dawson said.
There were initial reports that people were inside the home when the fire broke out, but relatives said the couple who had lived in the home for decades was away on vacation.
"I'm thankful that my parents were not home, but I feel badly for the family of the firefighter that was killed," Melissa Lainhart told the Hamilton-Middletown Journal-News. She said her parents were in Las Vegas celebrating their wedding anniversary.
No other injuries were reported. Investigation into the fire's cause was continuing.
The Hamilton firefighters union said funeral services would be planned with the family.
The Cincinnati firefighters union posted a message of support on its Facebook page.
"The men and women of Local 48 send our deepest sympathies and condolences to family, friends and fellow firefighters," stated the message.
Cincinnati firefighter Daryl Gordon, 54, a three-decade veteran, died after he plunged headfirst into an elevator shaft while searching for people to rescue in an early morning March 26 apartment building fire.