Community mourns death of Wayne-Westland firefighter

Published On: May 08 2013 05:15:13 PM EDT
Updated On: May 08 2013 08:34:57 PM EDT

Brian Woehlke, 29, is the first firefighter to die in the line of duty in the Wayne-Westland Fire Departments' 47-year history.  

WESTLAND, Mich. -

Wayne-Westland firefighters got the call a little after 8 a.m. Wednesday that a fire had broke out at the Electric Stick pool hall on Wayne Road in Westland.

The fire quickly spread through the strip mall. Electric Stick and Marvaso's Italian Grill are a total loss. Several firefighters rushed inside. Minutes later, the roof collapsed.

Then, there was the mayday call. Crews were alerted that a firefighter was in trouble. Four of them managed to escape the blaze, but one remained missing.

"He was doing his job. What I would expect out of any guy on this scene, doing their job the way they should be doing it," said Wayne-Westland Deputy Fire Chief Rob Arbini.

Then, the devastating news broke. Firefighters started searching through the rubble, doing the painstaking task of looking for their comrade.

It was confirmed just before 1 p.m. that a firefighter had been killed.

"We have found the body of our missing firefighter," said Arbini.

Firefighter Brian Woehlke, 29, a young father and husband who had only been on the job with the Wayne-Westland Fire Department for 10 months, had been killed.

"We're all just praying that everyone is going to be OK, and when you hear that somebody is missing or somebody has been hurt or taken to the hospital, obviously you kind of go to your loved one first and you hope that it's not them and you hope that they are OK," said Tommie Schwesing, a firefighter's wife.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

How to help the Woehlke family

Fire Chief Michael Reddy says Woehlke leaves behind his wife of four years and a 13-month-old daughter. He was hired by the department in July 2012.

Anyone who wishes to help the Woehlke family with donations please make a check out to the Westland Firefighters Charity, PO Box 851320 Westland, MI 48185 or drop a check off to Station 1, which is located at the southwest corner of Ford Road and Central City in Westland.

The department will be forwarding all money to a trust that is going to be setup by the family for his daughter.

Reddy says funeral arrangements are being taken care of.

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