— The City of Philadelphia mourns the loss of Fire Capt. Michael Goodwin of Parkwood, who perished in a fabric shop blaze in Queen Village.
A vase of radiant yellow flowers adorned the bow window of Captain Michael R. Goodwin’s tidy brick row home on Monday morning, a stark contrast to the red ribbons that hung at his stoop, and outside the other houses along tiny Friar Place in Parkwood.
Red, a universal symbol of courage and sacrifice, had come to represent those qualities and more for the family and friends of Goodwin, the Philadelphia Fire Department ladder company commander who perished on Saturday while battling a blaze at a South Philly fabric store.
The ribbons, as well as the red porch lights in use by many residents of the cul-de-sac, reflected the bright red paint of the fire trucks that Mike Goodwin loved to operate and they demonstrated the solidarity of a community in the throes of grief.
“My father, Chief Mike Goodwin, served the citizens of Philadelphia for 29 years as a dedicated firefighter,” said Mike Goodwin Jr., the firefighter’s 26-year-old son, in a public statement on behalf of the family.
“He was also a devoted husband, father and grandfather. My mother, sister, his grandchildren and I would like to ask and thank you to continue to support and keep the family in your prayers and hearts during these difficult days ahead.”
Mike Sr. was 53. Although he held the rank of captain at the time of his death, the fire department has announced that it will promote him to battalion chief posthumously. But family and fellow firefighters remember him more for the qualities of his character than the decorations he wore on his uniform.
“My dad was a loving man, a caring man, a hard worker, a Navy man, a church-going man,” Mike Jr. said. “He taught me everything I need to know to be a man and now I’m better because of that. He died doing what he loved, fighting fires and serving this city.”
“The only thing Mikey Goodwin loved [like] his family was our job,” said Bill Gault, the president of the city’s firefighters union and a childhood friend of the elder Goodwin. “We’re a brotherhood. We’re still grieving. We’ll be grieving for a long time.”
Goodwin is survived by his wife, Kelly, adult daughter, Dorothy Dunn, and son Michael Jr., as well as his mother, Elizabeth, two brothers, a sister, two grandchildren and many other relatives and friends.
Goodwin became the 289th Philadelphia firefighter killed in the line of duty since the inception of the city’s professional fire department in 1870. Goodwin’s April 6 death preceded by three days the first anniversary of the deaths of Lt. Robert Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney in the aftermath of a fire at a vacant Kensington warehouse.
Goodwin suffered fatal injuries when the roof of the three-story fabric shop collapsed beneath his feet and he fell into the burning building amid other falling debris, fire officials said. The captain was on duty at South Philly’s Ladder 27 at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday when flames broke out at Jack B. Fabrics on the 700 block of S. Fourth St. in the Queen Village section.
The first engine company at the scene reported heavy smoke on the first two floors, according to Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, who spoke to the news media that night. With the building still involved in flames, the department struck a second alarm at 6:04. At 6:21, Ayers said, supervisors learned “we had a member that was down.” Soon after, that member and a second were reported “missing.”
Goodwin had fallen from the roof to the upper floor of the building. Firefighter Andrew Godlewski tried to pull him from the inferno and suffered burns to his hand. The department struck a third alarm at 6:30 p.m. The flames burnt out of control until 9 p.m. Goodwin died before rescuers could reach him. Godlewski was treated at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, released and is expected to recover.
The fabric shop and neighboring businesses were occupied when the fire began, but all civilians escaped without injury. Seventeen area residents were displaced, the American Red Cross said. The fire’s cause remains under investigation by the fire marshal’s office.
Gault, the union president, contends that the volume of flammable material inside the building, as well as the age of the property and its configuration on a narrow street contributed to the tragedy.
“We still have fire traps in these cities that haven’t been taken care of. They’re still out there and when the bell rings, we’re still going to answer the call,” Gault said.
It was “a typical city job,” he added.
Gault believes that Goodwin got caught in a “flashover” when the heat inside a smoke-filled room becomes so intense that floating gases and the air itself ignite spontaneously. In fact, Goodwin and other firefighters had probably gone to the roof to prevent such an occurrence and stop the flames from spreading. Typically, firefighters will break windows and carve other openings to vent the burning building.
“[They] were trying to get the gases out of the building, the smoke and the gases. That’s what happened here,” Gault said. “The ladder trucks, their job is to rescue and get the smoke out.”
The union — Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters — paid tribute to Goodwin, along with Neary and Sweeney, in a wreath-laying ceremony on Tuesday at City Hall. Public viewings for Goodwin are scheduled for 5 p.m. tonight and 9 a.m. Thursday at John F. Givnish Funeral Home, 10975 Academy Road. A Life Celebration Service will begin at noon Thursday at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, 2139 E. Cumberland St., in Kensington with interment to follow at Hillside Cemetery in Roslyn.
Goodwin grew up on Cumberland Street and joined the Boy Scout troop at St. Michael’s. He graduated from Mastbaum Tech and served in the U.S. Navy before returning home and entering the Fire Academy. He remained active at St. Michael’s despite moving to the Far Northeast and was president of the church council.
Life mainly consisted of work and family, according to those who knew him well.
“My father would take overtime whenever he could. He would help out anybody he could. It didn’t matter who you were, he would run into that building and pull you out,” Mike Goodwin Jr. said.
The fire department’s official spokesman, Executive Chief Richard Davison, said that Goodwin’s dedication was well-known.
“I knew about the leadership that he brought to the Philadelphia Fire Department,” Davison said. “He was a good man and was respected by many.”
Mayor Michael Nutter, City Council President Darrell Clarke and Gov. Tom Corbett all paid similar tributes to Goodwin. Nutter ordered city flags to be flown at half-staff, as did Corbett for all state flags.
Mike Goodwin Jr. said he will miss the unwavering support his dad gave to him. He will also miss analyzing the daily sports page with his dad, hearing his old Navy stories and feeling the warmth of his hugs.
“I’ll miss waking up in the morning and knowing he’s going to be there; giving him a hug, putting my head in his chest and feeling that moustache up here,” Mike Jr. said, motioning to his forehead.
“He was the captain of our house. He was our anchor and now we lost our anchor. … But we’re going to keep on keeping on. That’s what he would’ve wanted us to do, to keep on going.” ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org