Philadelphia firefighter killed is identified; 5 rescued after building collapse in Fairhill fire

A firefighter is dead after an early morning fire caused a building to collapse in Fairhill, according to officials.

Lieutenant Sean Williamson, a 27-year veteran of the Philadelphia Fire Department, was killed after a portion of the building collapsed.

Crews responded to the fire as it broke out at a commercial building on the 300 block West Indiana Avenue around 2 a.m. They were able to get the fire under control in about 15 minutes. 

Lt. Sean Williamson

Lieutenant Sean Williamson, a 27-year veteran of the Philadelphia Fire Department, was killed after a portion of a building collapsed, after an early morning fire.

However, a large portion of the building collapsed as officials surveyed the damage and crews attended to displaced residents.

Six people were reportedly trapped underneath the building, five firefighters and one license and inspections inspector.


Five were rescued from the fire, including Fire Marshal Sylvester Burton, Lieutenant Clarence Johnson, Firefighter Dennis Daly and Firefighter Robert Brennan, Jr., and transported to Temple University Hospital. Supervisor with Emergency Services Unit at L&I Thomas Rybakowski was also trapped and rescued from the rubble. He and Lt. Johnson and Lt. Burton were treated at Temple and released. Brennan and Daly are in critical, but stable condition, officials say.

"It's a sad day for the Philadelphia Fire Department," said Craig Murphy, 1st Deputy Fire Commissioner. "Unfortunately our department lost a member bravely fighting a fire then caught in a building collapse."

Officials say four people were initially rescued from the collapse at different times, with one jumping from the second floor to escape.

Crews worked for hours to find and rescue the remaining two, and said they lost contact with them around 6:05 a.m.

John DiGiulio, an official with the Philadelphia Water Department, described the scene as "100s of men and women, who risk their lives to save ours, risking their lives to save two of their own."

He said fellow firefighters stood on top of the collapsed building "digging by hand, doing a bucket brigade, working as quickly and as safely as they could to save the lives of two trapped in the rubble."

"The Philadelphia Fire Department is grieving with the family, friends, and community for all those affected by this tragedy," said Fire Commissioner Adam K. Thiel. "It is not possible to express in words what we feel at this time."

"I am deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of Philadelphia Firefighter Lt. Sean Williamson. This is a heartbreaking day for our city. For more than 27 years, he dedicated his life to serving and protecting the people of Philadelphia, and sacrificed his life protecting others," Mayor Jim Kenney said. "I share my deepest condolences with everyone who knew and loved Sean. I ask all Philadelphians to keep his family, and all members of the Philadelphia Fire Department, in your prayers at this difficult time."

Williamson was 51-years-old. He leaves behind his mother and son.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but officials say they do not believe it is suspicious.