Father’s Day June 17, 2001 started as any other day tour would for the FDNY.
At 2:19 PM a telephone call to the Queens Dispatch office reporting a fire in a store. At about the same time
as the telephone alarm was being received Squad 288, taking up from a minor haz-mat incident in the area
received a verbal alarm from a women reporting smoke from a store. As they arrived they reported the same
and transmitted the 10-75 signal reporting a working fire. Conditions in the structure, a 2 story commercial
on the first floor and dwelling above, began to worsen. A radio progress report from the chief on the scene
indicated that there was “popping sounds” coming from the basement. Housing a well stocked industrial
supply the building was well fortified. Units tried to gain access to the basement via the rear basement.
A line was stretched through the store to the top of the basement stairs. Members from Rescue 4
began to search the first floor store. Simultaneously, Firefighter Harry Ford(R4) and John Dowling(L-163)
were attempting to remove a gate from a window on the exposure 2 side.
First came a small explosion followed almost immediately by a huge blast. All of the firefighters on scene
were tossed, thrown, or knocked down by the explosion. Firefighters inside the building reported being
lifted off the ground and hitting the ceiling. Others were thrown to the ground, others were blown back from
the building. The 14 Division immediately transmitted a 2nd alarm reporting a major explosion.
The explosion caused the entire exposure 2 wall to collapse. Immediately, burying Ford and Dowling.
Firefighter Fahey(R4) was part of the inside search team, he was separated from the other members of
the team, and wound up in the basement. He reported to his officer,
"I'm trapped in the basement by the stairs. Come get me."
As the not too seriously injured members began to dig, a 4th alarm was transmitted bypassing the
transmission of a 3rd alarm. In all 5 alarms were transmitted, all 5 FDNY rescue companies, 7 squad
companies, 46 engines, 33 ladders, 16 battalion chiefs, 2 deputy chiefs
and a number of off duty members responded.
Just three short months after this tragedy the New York City Fire Department, Ladder 163 and Rescue 4
were still mourning the loss of these three firefighters. Terrorists attacked the United States of America.
Many of the firefighters seen in this video were killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers.
As we endured the loss of John Downing, Harry Ford and Brian Fahey the inconceivable loss of life
on 09-11-01 overshadowed their passing.
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