Two New York City firefighters were killed on Saturday afternoon as they battled a seven-alarm fire in a vacant high-rise building across the street from the World Trade Center site.
Killed were Firefighters Robert Beddia, 53, of Engine 24 and Joseph Graffagnino, 34, of Ladder 5.
"They were found right away, and they were pulled out," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "Doctors said the level of carbon monoxide is at such an elevated level that it's not surprising that they went into cardiac arrest."
"Today's events really are another cruel blow to our city and to our fire department," said Mayor Bloomberg.
The fire started on the 17th floor of the Deustche Bank, an abandoned 40-story building 1.4 million square feet of office space. Commissioner Scoppetta said the fire was reported just after 3 p.m. by workers who noticed smoke in the building. They called the elevator operator who then found fire on the 17th floor. The construction workers were quickly evacuated.
"This was an especially difficult fire," Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta told the media. "We had to get the hoses up to the 17th floor. We had to use ropes to get the hoses up there."
A department press release stated that the two firefighters became trapped in "maze-like conditions" on the 14th floor of the building.
Witnesses said that burning pieces of scaffolding floated from the building as the fire raged out several windows and covered lower Manhattan with smoke.
Firefighter Beddia, of Staten Island, was a 23-year veteran of the department. Graffagnino, was an eight-year veteran and lived in Brooklyn. They were the 1,136th and 1,137th members of the department to die in the line of duty.
Engine 24 and Ladder 5, located on Avenue of the Americas near Houston Street in SoHo, has suffered several line-of-duty deaths in recent years, including 11 firefighters on September 11. "That house being hit again makes it's all the more devasating" Commissioner Scoppetta said during the press conference. Battalion 2, who also lost three members on September 11, is also housed in that station.
The fire was declared under control just before 11 p.m., almost eight hours after the fire was reported. Fire and smoke were still visible from the building for several hours as nearby streets were shutdown.
The seven-alarm fire brought over 250 firefighters from 70 units to the scene in Lower Manhattan.
The building is on the south side of the World Trade Center site, just across Liberty Street and is also adjacent to FDNY's "10 House" - the home of Engine 10 and Ladder 10.
Over 700 human remains have been recovered from the building since September 11, when a large section of structure was ripped from the front of the building as the Twin Towers collapsed. As the building is being dismantled, it is undergoing an asbestos abatement. Bloomberg stated the the air quality of the area is being monitored.
Two firefighters were injured in May when a 35-foot pipe came loose during work at the Deustche Bank and smashed through the 10 House.
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Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta will join family, friends and Fire Department members in paying their final respects to Firefighter Joseph Graffagnino of Ladder Company 5 and Firefighter Robert Beddia of Engine Company 24.
Joseph Graffagnino: Visitation
Where: Andrew Torregrossa & Sons Funeral Home 1305 79th Street Brooklyn, NY 11228
When: Tuesday, August 21 and Wednesday, August 22, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Procession and Funeral Mass
Where: St. Ephrem's Church 929 Bay Ridge Parkway Brooklyn, NY 11228
When: Thursday, August 23 at 10 a.m.