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A Bronx 99 cent store's back room caught fire yesterday morning, and one firefighter was killed and four firefighters were seriously injured as over one hundred firefighters tried to fight a fire that consumed the whole building. A heavy AC unit on the roof fell through the building and into the basement, taking five firefighters into the basement as well, leaving them trapped under debris. The firefighters were eventually located after issuing distress signals, and three of them, Battallion Chief Thomas W. Auer, Lieutenant John P. Grasso, and firefighter Wayne J. Walters, were rescued. However, it was more difficult to remove Michael Reilly, a probationary firefighter who just graduated, and Lieutenant Howard Carpluk from the rubble; Reilly died and Carpluk was in critical condition, after being in cardiac arrest for 45 minutes. The three other firefighters are in serious but stable condition.

The fire took over four hours to control, and the Mega 99 Store's owner said that the fire started from behind the refrigerator in a back room, and by the time he got his fire extinguisher, the fire was out of control. A neighbor told the NY Times that the store "sold paper things, a lot of things to clean with, and a lot of flammable stuff.” While the owner would like to reopn, the fire collapsed the part of the building. The FDNY is investigating but does not believe the fire was suspicious.

Reilly had been a Marine in Iraq and worked at firehouses in NJ and Connecticut. Mayor Bloomberg said he had given Reilly a plaque during the recent FDNY graduation, and also mentioned that it turns out he knows Reilly's father, an accountant, through some business.

Update: Lieutenant Carpluk died this afternoon from his injuries.

Photograph of the Mega 99 Store fire by Mary Altaffer/AP