2016-05-11 / Features

Son Follows Footsteps Of ‘Father’s Day’ Firefighter

BY LIZ GOFF


Long Island General Supply Co. at 14th Street and Astoria Boulevard, the site of the Father’s Day fire in 2001. 
Photo Gazette archives Long Island General Supply Co. at 14th Street and Astoria Boulevard, the site of the Father’s Day fire in 2001. Photo Gazette archives Firefighters from engine and ladder companies and rescue units throughout Queens gather each June at the Astoria site where three Queens firefighters lost their lives in an explosion at a hardware store on Father’s Day, June 13, 2001.

Family members, along with firefighters from Rescue 4 in Woodside, Ladder Co. 116 in Dutch Kills, and Ladder Co. 163 in Elmhurst join fellow firefighters at the site each year to remember husbands, dads, brothers and sons who perished in the explosion at Long Island General Supply Co. at 14th Street and Astoria Boulevard. The five-alarm inferno rocked the neighborhood and changed forever the lives of eight FDNY children left fatherless.

Harry Ford Jr. was one of those children. Ford, Jr., 27, was among 310 probationary firefighters who graduated from the Fire Academy on May 3.

“He’s very excited to be able to follow in his dad’s footsteps,” an FDNY spokesperson said. “He was determined, since his dad died, to become a New York City firefighter. This is a dream come true for a young man who worked his way through tragedy to carry on his father’s commitment to save lives and assist those in need.”

Firefighter Harry Ford, 50, of Rescue Co. 4, was one of dozens of firefighters who responded to the chemical-fed blaze that started in the basement of the hardware store.

The intensity of the fire caused the building to buckle and set off an explosion that blew firefighters out into the street, raining fiery hot bricks and rubble over the men.

Ford was buried alive as he stood battling the blaze outside the building, desperately trying to pry open basement windows to reach a firefighter trapped inside.

Dozens of firefighters fell to their knees, digging through the rubble with their bare hands to reach the trapped firefighters. Off-duty firefighters rushed to the scene to help with the rescue, but all efforts were in vain.

Investigators later determined the fire was started by two local teens that broke into the basement of the hardware store to search for discarded containers of spray paint.

The teens escaped uninjured and never faced criminal charges.

Ford Jr. said he is looking forward to carrying on the traditions shared by FDNY firefighters. Following his graduation, Ford told reporters he is “amazed” by the number of firefighters who remember his dad.

“They shake my hand and tell me they’ll always have my back,” Ford said.

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