Funerals Planned for Two Fallen Conn. Firefighters

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Gov. Jodi Rell visited the firehouse where two Bridgeport firefighters killed in a weekend blaze worked.


Holding back tears several times, Rell met with the men and women of firehouse 7-11, where Lt. Steven Valasquez and Michel Baik worked. The two died Saturday while battling a blaze at a multi-family home on Elmwood Avenue.

"To me, it just says while we're enjoying life, first responders are putting their life on the line. It should be after this that the message is to say, 'Thank you,' " Rell said.

The firehouse has been receiving nonstop support for the first responders. Messages of thanks and messages of hope are written on the sidewalk and driveway near the entrance to the firehouse, and on Monday night, Baik's family showed up and wrote their own message on the firehouse floor.

State police, who are handling the investigation on what started the fire and why the two got into trouble, is looking into the building itself and whether there was an illegal third-floor apartment.

City officials say the home was built in 1909 as a two-family home. The building and zoning departments told Eyewitness News that no requests to change that have ever been filed.

Bridgeport fire officials said illegal apartments can cause safety hazards for them because codes require a certain number of stairways and other safety precautions, such as certain types of walls between apartments.

Eyewitness News tried to reach out to the building's owner, who is staying at a hotel because of the fire damage, but she did not return any calls for a comment

Some of the neighbors say they have seen people living on all three floors but they can not be sure if there were three different apartments.

Rell said, "When they discover a door and think someone can be behind that door you're going into search, and if that led to any problems that certainly makes it even more of a tragedy."

The state Medical Examiner's Office said Baik died of smoke inhalation. The office said Baik also had coronary artery disease that contributed to his death.

An autopsy was also performed on Velasquez, but the medical examiner said more study is needed to determine his cause of death.

Velasquez was promoted to lieutenant in February, and Baik had been a firefighter for two years.

Both men leave behind wives and children.

The viewing for Velasquez will be held Thursday at the Klein Auditorium, 910 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport from 12 - 4 p.m, and the viewing for Baik will be held at the Abriola Parkview Funeral Home, 419 White Plains Rd., Trumbull from 4 - 8 p.m.

On Friday, the funeral service for Velasquez will be at St. Augustine Cathedral 259 Washington Ave., Bridgeport at 10 a.m. Directly after the funeral, all parties will be transported to the funeral for Baik.

Baik's funeral will be at St. Nicholas Antiochain Orthodox Church, 5458 Park Ave., Bridgeport at 2 p.m.

A Ceremony of Firefighters will be held at the conclusion of all services at the Arena at Harbor Yard, 600 Main St., Bridgeport.

City officials met all day Tuesday to ensure the private and public memorial services for the fallen firefighters go as smoothly as possible.

Officials said thousands of people are expected to attend the memorial services.

Donations can be made to:

Bridgeport Fallen Firefighters, C/O BFD Federal Credit Union, 3115 Madison Ave., Bridgeport, CT

or

Bridgeport Firefighters Local 834, 30 Congress St., Bridgeport, CT 06604

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