NY blast kills highest ranking firefighter since Sept. 11 attacks

An explosion at a home in the New York City borough of the Bronx on Tuesday killed a battalion chief, the city's highest ranking fire official to die in the line of duty since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, officials said.

Michael Fahy, a 17-year veteran of the fire department, died after he was struck in the head by building debris sent flying to the street, Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters at New York-Presbyterian/Allen Hospital.

"We lost a hero today and our members are all saddened," said Nigro, who was visibly emotional. "He was a star, a brave man."

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Fahy, whose father was a fire battalion chief with the city and a contemporary of Nigro's, leaves behind three children, ages 6, 8 and 11.

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Explosion at Bronx, NY, home
FDNY Battalion Chief Michael J. Fahy, who died September 27, 2016 after an explosion ripped through a house in the Bronx section of New York City, is seen in an undated picture released by the New York City Fire Department. New York City Fire Department/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
A man stands on a roof and takes photos of a home that was destroyed by explosion in the early morning in the Bronx borough of New York, U.S., September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
People stand in an alley near a home that was destroyed by an explosion in the early morning in the Bronx borough of New York, U.S., September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A New York Fire Department official stands guard near a home that was destroyed by an explosion in the early morning in the Bronx borough of New York, U.S., September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Bystanders stand near a home that was destroyed by an explosion in the early morning in the Bronx borough of New York, U.S., September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Firefighters work on a home that was destroyed by an explosion in the early morning in the Bronx borough of New York, U.S., September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Paramedics remove some equipment from near a home that was destroyed by explosion in the early morning in the Bronx borough of New York, U.S., September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A New York Police Department officer looks at the blood on the ground where medical aid was rendered to a victim at the scene where a home was destroyed by an explosion in the early morning in the Bronx borough of New York, U.S., September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
An official reacts as he stands guard near a home that was destroyed by an explosion in the early morning in the Bronx borough of New York, U.S., September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
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The Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York said he was the highest-ranking New York fire official to die in the line of duty since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The blast just after 7 a.m. EDT also injured 20 people, including nine firefighters and six police officers, many of whom were transported to the hospital, fire officials said. Their conditions were not immediately disclosed, and investigators have not determined the cause of the blast.

Without elaborating, Police Commissioner James O'Neill said detectives were investigating reports of a marijuana "grow home" in the area.

Firefighters investigated reports of a possible gas leak in the area for about an hour before the explosion tore the roof off the two-story home, Nigro said.

Fahy was directing operations, including evacuating nearby buildings, when he was struck in the head and elsewhere by the debris, the commissioner said.

Police rushed the battalion chief to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. All of the victims were injured while in the street, Nigro said.

(Additional reporting by David Ingram and Daniel Wallis; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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