A Howard County firefighter died Monday after falling through a floor while battling a seven-alarm house fire.
Firefighter Nathan Flynn was killed as he tried to extinguish a fire in Clarksville.
He is the first career firefighter to die in the line of duty in the department's history, a spokesman said at a news conference Monday morning. Officials' voices trembled as they described what happened.
"Nate was a 13-year veteran of the department. He was a heck of a firefighter. It's a hard day for us," deputy fire chief William Anuszewski said.
Flynn, who served at the Rivers Park station, is survived by his wife and children.
Fire crews were called to the 7000 block of Woodscape Drive, south of Patuxent Freeway (Route 32), just before 2 a.m. Monday for a report of a possible lightning strike.
A resident of the large house called 911. All three residents were able to get out safely.
Neighbor Nathan Flynn said he saw a "very, very bright flash."
Flynn went inside the 7,300-square-foot house to help at about 2:20 a.m. That's when he fell.
"As the firefighters were making their way into the structure, Firefighter Flynn fell through the floor, from the first floor to the basement," Anuszewski said.
Crews searched for Flynn extensively, but they found heavy fire in the basement. The crew eventually was able to reach him. At about 2:40 a.m., Flynn was rushed to Howard County General Hospital.
His family was notified of his death at about 5:30 a.m.
"Our job now is to make sure that, for his family, our brother is laid to rest with dignity," International Association of Firefighters Local 2000 President Rich Ruehl said in a statement. "It’s also our job to take care of his family, forever. They’re ours now, and they always will be.”
The homeowners said they were mourning the loss of Flynn.
"We are devastated by the loss of firefighter Nathan Flynn. We grieve alongside the Howard County community and our hearts go out to his family and comrades," Janet and Nayab Siddiqui said in a statement. "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."
Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all flags be lowered to half-staff in Flynn's honor, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Hogan sent his condolences.
"Incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of a Howard County firefighter as he bravely worked to save others' lives," the governor said in a tweet. "The First Lady and I send our prayers and deepest condolences to his family, fellow firefighters, and loved ones as we mourn the loss of a hero."
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but officials believe a lightning strike may be to blame.
The fire was finally extinguished before noon Monday, about 10 hours after it began.
Arrangements for Flynn's funeral will be made.