- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) - A 29-year veteran firefighter died “a hero” Thursday from injuries he suffered while searching for people to rescue from a burning Cincinnati apartment building, authorities said.

Daryl Gordon, 54, was removed from the building by stretcher after falling down an elevator shaft and died at a hospital, officials said.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the death of one of our city’s protectors,” Mayor John Cranley said at a news conference. “He put himself in harm’s way to help residents in the building.”

Flags were lowered to half-staff across the city, and fire-rescue workers put black strips over their badges.

“We lost a hero today, and we are all mourning,” fire Chief Richard Braun said, adding that “we lost a family member.” Braun had gone to the scene early Thursday and asked for the community’s prayers for a firefighter who was hurt and “in dire straits.”

The Fire Department report stated that the blaze was first reported at 5:31 a.m. in the five-story building. Two firefighters were treated for burns at a hospital and released, and four civilians were taken there as well. There were no details on their injuries; authorities had said earlier that several residents were treated for smoke inhalation.

“Women and children were carried out of the building to safety,” Cranley said. “When that was over, God delivered all of the civilians to us but kept one of our firefighters back. We know God is holding him tightly.”

State and local authorities were investigating the fire’s cause. Braun said department policies and procedures will be reviewed to try to learn from the death.

The owner of the apartments said some 68 families lived there and its management was working with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army for emergency housing and supplies. Owner Community Builders Inc. said there were no known safety citations in the past year at the property.

Cincinnati authorities said it was the first firefighter death in the line of duty since 2003 for the department that calls itself the first professional, fully paid fire department in the United States, dating to 1853.

The firefighters’ local union president described Gordon as “a giant teddy bear” with a big smile and laugh who was dedicated and heroic.

“As good as it gets,” Matt Alter said. “He was a firefighter through and through.”

City officials said Gordon, a fire apparatus operator who joined Cincinnati Fire on June 30, 1985, also was a 10-year employee of UC Health Air Care and Mobil Care. He was married with two daughters.

A city spokesman said Gordon became eligible for retirement in 2010.

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