A firefighter was killed in a house on West 234th St. in the Bronx while responding to a gas leak. The house exploded and the firefighter was strucky by flying debris. (Photo by Lisa Evers)
NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - The New York Police Department is questioning a man in connection with a Bronx house explosion that killed a fire battalion chief.
Julio Salcedo, 34, was arrested Tuesday in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, on an outstanding warrant on an un-related charge.
Sources said Salcedo- who was a tenant on the second floor of the house that exploded- was using his apartment as a marijuana grow-house that was already on the NYPD's radar.
The Associated Press reported that firefighters discovered what appeared to be a drug lab at the now leveled two-story private house.
"We were in the initial stages of an investigation on that block," Police Commissioner James O'Neill said. "So that's going to be part of the ongoing investigation as a possible drug lab, as a possible grow house.
Twenty people were hurt when the house exploded at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. Flying debris from the blast struck Battalion Chief Michael J. Fahy, a 17-year-veteran of the fire department, on the head and other parts of his body. Fahy was rushed to a local hospital, but could not be saved.
"It's a terrible loss for the family, for the Fahy family. It's a loss for the Fire Department family. We are a family. We feel it deeply. We feel it deeply today," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. "We lost a hero today and are members are all sad."
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he met with Fahy's family at the hospital.
"It is a reminder of the dangers that our first responders face every day, the dangers that the men and women of the FDNY face and the bravery with which they do their job," de Blasio said. "I want to thank everyone here at the Allen Pavilion for all they did to try and save him and to comfort the family. My profound thanks to the members of FDNY and the NYPD who also attempted to save him. Our hearts go out to the Fahy family--a family so devoted to this city."
The injured -- including firefighters, police officers, Con Edison workers, and civilians -- were expected to recover.
FDNY units were called to the area of 304 West 234 Street at 6:22 a.m. to investigate reports of a gas leak. Con Ed said that it had crews to the scene by about 6:45 a.m.
Nearby homes were evacuated after the blast. Debris landed on the roofs of nearby buildings. Parts of the house landed in trees. Several vehicles were damaged.
Con Ed is reportedly looking into whether someone illegally tapped into a gas line, sources told FOX 5 News.
Fahy, of the 19th Battalion in the Bronx, leaves behind a wife and three children ages 6, 8 and 11.
At a luncheon Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo paid tribute to Fahy and the injured firefighters.
"We remember them and it's another reminder of the sacrifice that our first responders make, that every day when they leave the house, is a day that that family doesn't know if they're every going to see them again," Cuomo said. "So, keep them in our prayers and thoughts."
Twitter user @advocateofwordz posted video of the aftermath.
He wrote: "when it exploded, 3 blocks away me and my son were in my apartment and the entire building shook."
With the Associated Press