A Lutherville volunteer firefighter was killed and two residents were injured in a four-alarm blaze that engulfed an apartment building in Hillendale Wednesday night.
Mark Falkenhan, 43, a married father of two from Middle River, was identified as the firefighter who died. Falkenhan had retired from Baltimore County as a paramedic about five years ago, then went to work for the U.S. Secret Service and volunteered for the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Fire Chief John Hohman arrived on the scene at around 9:30 p.m. and announced to the media that Falkenhan had died. They said Falkenhan was the first firefighter to die in the line of duty in more than two decades.
"On behalf of the citizens of Baltimore County we salute a fallen hero," Kamenetz said, the scorched building behind him. "It was a tragedy that this man died in the line of duty saving lives."
Hohman said he knew Falkenhan on his first day and that the loss was deeply personal.
"We lost a firefighter this evening," Hohman said. "We have an inherently dangerous profession but all of our parameters were followed tonight."
At around 6:15 p.m., Baltimore County emergency 911 dispatch received a call about a kitchen fire at 30 Dowling Circle in the Towson Crossing apartment complex.
When the first firefighters from the Hillendale fire station arrived, flames could be seen on the second floor of the three-story, 12-unit apartment building, Baltimore County Fire Division Chief Michael Robinson said.
"They had fire showing and reports of multiple subjects trapped," Robinson said. "Our crews immediately went to work and were able to make several rescues, including two civilians … The fire quickly escalated to a second alarm."
Firefighters had to make a third rescue: A fellow firefighter was trapped.
"At 6:47, what is known as a 'Mayday,' which is a distress call, was signaled," Robinson said. "The incident commander picked up on that. … The crews go into a rescue mode."
Falkenhan was quickly located, pulled from the building and treated by emergency medical staff before being transported to St. Joseph Medical Center.
Speaking of the fallen firefighter, Robinson said, "The fire dept is one large family, so we take that very personally."
He said a "critical incident stress-management team" arrived and the first firefighters to arrive were quickly relieved so they could leave the scene. Kamenetz said that grief counselors were being made available to firefighters and to Falkenhan's family.
Falkenhan's death comes just eight days after his uncle, William Falkenhan, a retired firefighter himself, died.
Baltimore County paramedic Lt. Sam Snyder knew both Falkenhans well and spoke with Mark at his uncle's viewing.
"Mark's uncle was a mentor to me and if there was one person I considered a hero in the department it was William Falkenhan," Snyder said. "Mark was like his uncle in many ways. He may have left the fire department, but the fire department never left him.
"He always kept in touch with everyone and stayed active through volunteering," Snyder added. "Plus, he was such a great husband and father. He always talked about his sons. I can't believe he's gone."
The two residents who were injured in the fire were both transported to area hospitals. One was taken to the Johns Hopkins Burn Center at Hopkins Bayview Medical Center for treatment of severe burns and was in critical condition, Robinson said. Another was transported to Sinai Hospital.
The county's Office of Emergency Management and the American Red Cross turned out to help residents displaced by the fire. Robinson said the second and third floors were severely damaged.
Patch editors Nick Gestido of Parkville Patch and Tyler Waldman of Towson Patch contributed to this report.
Republished with permission of Essex-Middle River Patch.