Firefighter Dies Battling Strip Mall Blaze
WESTLAND (WWJ) - Rescue crews have recovered the body of a firefighter who was killed while fighting a fire at a Westland shopping center.
He’s been identified as 29 year-old Brian Woehlke of Dearborn — on the force for only 10 months. He leaves behind a wife and an 13-month-old daughter.
Westland Mayor William Wild said Woehlke was the first firefighter to fall in the line of duty in the City of Westland Fire Departments’ 47-year history.
He said this is a sad day for the city.
“The sacrifices this young man made and that his family, they’re are going to continue to make, we need to keep in our thoughts and prayers moving forward,” Wild said.
Several fire departments were assisting after the blaze broke out Wednesday morning at the Electric Stick, a billiards hall and charity poker room, on Wayne Road near Warren.
Just after Noon, Wayne-Westland Fire Department Deputy Chief Rob Arbini confirmed to WWJ that one firefighter who had entered the building was “unaccounted for.”
“And we currently have every resource we have on scene, currently doing what we need to do to find that person,” Arbini said.
Earlier, tipsters calling the WWJ Newsroom reported heavy smoke in the area.
WWJ’s Scott Ryan spoke with Krista Landau who works nearby.
“Yeah, the roof is like gone on that bar over there,” Landau said. “I just noticed it, like, before you called. I was checking it out with one of my other coworkers who was like, ‘The roof collapsed!’ I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ Like, seriously, the roof is gone.”
By 9:30 a.m., the fire had spread to Marvaso’s Italian Grill next door.
Both businesses are owned by George Marvaso and his family.
He told WWJ’s Mike Campbell they have 90 employees, and a lot to be concerned about.
“But family’s strong; we’re all together,” Marvoso said. “We’ll sit down and make and agenda and we’ll do what you do in life, you know. When you get knocked down you make an agenda and you try to take care of everybody and make it happen right.”
The Electric Stick and Marvoso’s were both completely destroyed.
A thrift store, an internet cafe and a dollar store were also heavily damaged. Other stores sustained some smoke damage.
No one else was hurt.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Mayor Wild later released the following statement:
“I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of our Westland firefighters who died in the line of duty this morning. He dedicated his life to protecting the residents of Wayne and Westland and this is a terrible loss for the firefighter’s family and our entire community. This tragedy is a reminder to us all of the sacrifice that firefighters make along with their family and friends every single day.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends, as well as the first responders of the Wayne-Westland Fire Department, who are mourning the loss of fellow firefighter, Brian Woehlke. Woehlke, 29, a Dearborn resident who was married and the father of one, had been a member of the Wayne-Westland Fire Department for 10 months. We are forever appreciative for the brave men and women of the Wayne-Westland Fire Department who put their lives on the line every day.”