CLARKSVILLE, Md. - A firefighter was killed Monday morning when he fell through the floor of a house in Howard County that caught fire after a possible lightning strike.
The fire was reported at about 2:30 a.m. in the 7000 block of Woodscape Drive in the Clarksville area. The blaze at the 7,000-square foot home quickly grew to seven alarms. Smoke billowed from holes that had been cut into the roof and hung thick around much of the surrounding estate throughout the morning.
Officials identified the fallen firefighter as 13-year veteran Nathan Flynn.
"He was a heck of a firefighter. He loved the fire service, he loved his family - both his fire department family and his home family," said Howard County Deputy Fire Chief William Anuszewski.
Flynn's death marks the first time a career firefighter has been killed in the line of duty in Howard County. Officials said five previous firefighter line-of-duty-deaths involved volunteer firefighters.
Black bunting was draped across the sign outside of the Rivers Park Fire Station where Flynn worked. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the U.S. flag and Maryland state flag lowered to half-staff immediately after learning of Flynn's death.
"We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Howard County Firefighter Nathan Flynn, a 13-year veteran of the department, husband, and father who bravely ran toward danger to save others' lives in a seven-alarm fire in Clarksville, Md.," Hogan said in a statement. "The First Lady and I send our prayers and deepest condolences to his family, fellow firefighters, and all of his friends and loved ones in the communities he selflessly served for over a decade. U.S. and Maryland flags will be lowered today through sunset on the day of his interment to honor this fallen hero."
Officials said the size of the home made it difficult for them to control the spread of the blaze inside. After initially entering the building, crews pulled out and took a defensive stance.
Fire officials said Flynn was one of those who initially entered the home. The firefighter fell into the basement after the first floor collapsed. He was pulled from the house by other firefighters.
Flynn was transported to Howard County General Hospital, but died several hours later from his injuries.
Firefighters were able to get the fire under control at around 10 a.m. and it was fully extinguished by noon.
Anuszewski struggled to speak as he described the events that led to the firefighter's death.
"Today is a tough day in Howard County," he said. "The Department of Fire and Rescue lost one of their family today."
Howard County's deputy fire chief said funeral arraignments will be announced once they become available.
"As a firefighter, we know there are inherent risks, we know there is always a possibility of this day, but we hope it never comes," said Anuszewski.
It is believed that three occupants of the home were able to safely escape and did not require hospitalization.
According to tax records, the home is owned by Janet Siddiqui, who is currently running for a seat in the Howard County Council.
"We are devastated by the loss of firefighter Nathan Flynn," Siddiqui said in a statement. "We grieve alongside the Howard County community and our hearts go out to his family and comrades. Structures can be rebuilt, but the loss of a loved one is irreplaceable. We are profoundly grateful and thank the fire department for their bravery and dedication today."
The fire remains under investigation, but crews have indicated that lightning may be to blame.