NEW YORK — A New York City firefighter died Thursday after falling from the roof of an apartment building while battling a fire in the borough of Queens, officials said.
The firefighter, William Tolley, a 14-year-veteran of the department, was part of a group of firefighters combating a blaze that started in a second-floor apartment of a five-story building in the Ridgewood neighborhood about 2:20 p.m.
Tolley was stationed on the roof to help ventilate the building, a relatively routine maneuver, officials said. But something caused him to fall about 20 minutes after he arrived. The fire was brought under control about 3 p.m.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York and other city officials rushed to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in New York City, where Tolley, 42, was taken after his fall.
“We lost another hero today,” the mayor said, “a man dedicated to protecting others. Gave his life to this work.”
Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said that Tolley’s death was a “terrible tragedy” for the department and that the circumstances of his fall would be investigated.
“It was really in the operation that he was performing on the roof, which is a routine operation for us, and somehow he fell from the roof,” Nigro said.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply saddened” to learn of Tolley’s death.
At the site of the fire, inspectors stood on the roof, and the ladder of Tolley’s company, No. 135, was leaning against the structure. A firefighter’s tank, a helmet and gloves lay on the cement below.
At the station house nearby, memorial candles and flowers crowded the door.
An official with knowledge of the matter said that Tolley was either in or around the bucket at the top of the fire ladder when he fell.
Michael T. Vogel, a neighbor, said he heard a loud noise followed by yelling.
“I heard everyone shouting, ‘Get back, get back,'” Vogel said. When he went out onto the street, he said, there were at least a dozen firefighters surrounding the man.
A red tent was later placed over the area.
Three other people were taken to the medical center with minor injuries, officials said.
Tolley is survived by his wife, Marie, and his 8-year-old daughter, Isabella, officials said.
“Everyone is in a state of shock and grief,” de Blasio said. “To his family, we say we will stand with you, not only today but in the days ahead.”
James Slevin, the president of Uniformed Firefighters Association, the union that represents New York City firefighters, said Tolley was a hero.
“His death is a grim reminder of the dangerous work New York City firefighters do on behalf of our city every single day,'’ he said in a statement.
It was the first line-of-duty death for a firefighter in New York City since September, when Battalion Chief Michael J. Fahy was killed after being hit by debris when a suspected drug laboratory exploded in the Bronx. An emergency medical technician employed by the fire department, Yadira Arroyo, was killed in March when a man stole her ambulance and ran her over.
In addition to his firefighting career, Tolley was the drummer of a well-known heavy metal band, Internal Bleeding.
The band, formed on Long Island in the early 1990s, said Tolley was the group’s “heartbeat,” in a statement posted on Facebook.
“There are ZERO WORDS to describe the loss,” the statement said. “He was a good, decent and honorable man who loved his friends, his family and the people he served. There will never be another like him.”
Chris Pervelis, a longtime guitar player in the band, wrote: “I’ve lost my best friend and musical soul mate. I don’t know what I am going to do without him. I love you Bill.”
In an interview with a heavy metal website in 2013, Tolley said he had been playing drums since he was 8, and described himself as a “family guy.”
“I love spending time with my wife and daughter doing all sorts of fun stuff together,” he said.
He spoke in glowing terms about the colleagues who filled in for him when he went on tour, and about firefighting in general.
“No other job in the world can compare to what I do,” he said.