NEW YORK (AP) _ Firefighters at Rescue Co. 4 in Queens were enjoying a Father's Day barbecue with their families when the call came: There was a blaze at a hardware store.
Harry Ford and Brian Fahey were among the men who left the festivities to join hundreds of other firefighters at the Long Island General Supply Co. in Astoria on Sunday. The two were breaking windows to vent the fire when the roof and facade came crashing down on them, killing them instantly. A third firefighter from Ladder Co. 163 in Queens, John Downing, died when he was trapped inside the building.
The trio, all fathers from Long Island, left behind a total of eight children and grief-stricken relatives, colleagues and neighbors. Ceremonial purple and black bunting was hung Monday at the two firehouses in honor of the fallen men.
Sunday was supposed to be Downing's last day at work before he and his wife and two children left for a much-anticipated vacation in Ireland to visit relatives. Now, Downing's Irish relatives are expected in New York this week to attend his funeral.
Downing, 40, was an 11-year veteran and had worked at Ladder Co. 163 his entire career. He was cited for bravery in 1992. A resident of Port Jefferson Station, Downing is survived by his wife, Anne, and his 7-year-old daughter, Joanne, and 3-year-old son, Michael.
Ford, 50, was a 27-year veteran. A resident of Long Beach, Ford was cited nine times for bravery and heroism during his career. He is survived by his wife, Denise, daughter Janna O' Brien, 24, and sons Harry, 12, and Gerard, 10.
Neighbor Carmella Nigro said Ford and his wife were involved in the local civic association and helped fight a plan to open a fast-food restaurant in the area.
``He has a beautiful family, and he was very instrumental in helping with a lot of the problems in the neighborhood,'' she said.
Fahey, 46, a 14-year veteran, was from East Rockaway. He is survived by his wife, Mary, an 8-year-old son, Brendan, and 3-year-old twins, Patrick and James.
``Whenever he wasn't working, he was with his kids,'' said Eileen Lerch, a neighbor of Fahey's. ``He worked the 24-hour shift, but when he was home he was either at a baseball game or scout meeting with Brendan, or outside with the twins on their bicycles. It was all family and firefighting.''