PARKVILLE, Md. --
A Baltimore County volunteer firefighter battling a four-alarm fire in the Parkville area has died.
Flames engulfed an entire apartment building at the Towson Crossing Apartments complex at 30 Dowling Circle at about 7 p.m. Wednesday. Fire Department spokeswoman Elise Armacost said at 7:20 p.m. that fire commanders had declared a mayday emergency involving the firefighter's injuries.
Initially, three people were injured, including a firefighter, who was taken to St. Joseph's Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries. Baltimore County Fire Chief John J. Hohman identified the fallen firefighter as Mark Falkenhan, 43, a member of the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Co.
"I just left the hospital, and we lost a firefighter this evening at this scene," Hohman said. "I knew him personally. (I) met him on his first day on the job when he came to work with us. He was a friend and he a great person."
Hohman said Falkenhan had recently left the department to pursue an opportunity with the Secret Service.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz expressed his "heartfelt sympathies to our fallen hero and his family as well as to our larger firefighter family."
Hohman said preliminary information indicated that a fire ignited in a basement kitchen, but conditions were too intense for firefighters to enter the building immediately.
"The fire was knocked and crews moved to the second and third floors to search for any possible victims," Hohman said. "A flashover occurred. One firefighter escaped successfully, one firefighter succumbed to his injuries at the hospital and passed away."
Firefighters pulled residents out of the burning building as witnesses watched helplessly as firefighters tried to rescue two people trapped on the second floor.
"We went up on the balcony and we said, 'Oh my gosh, the whole building's on fire from the bottom up all the way to the third floor,'" said Hillary Lyons, a resident. "My husband and I saw somebody being dragged out of the building (with) a firefighter on each leg, each arm as they laid him on the ground. His body was just limp."
"Smoke was coming out of the building next to us. About five seconds later, a big ball of fire came right out the front door," said Paul Trageser, a resident. "They tried to get a big handle on this fire and they couldn't."
Fire officials said a person was taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital's burn center in Baltimore, and another person was taken to Sinai Hospital with unknown injuries.
An investigation continued Wednesday night as firefighters went door to door to check on the conditions of neighboring apartments.
"We have an inherently dangerous profession," Hohman said. "We will pull together and we will make certain that our all procedures were followed, and if not, (we will identify) what we can learn from this."
Falkenhan is survived by a wife and two children.
"It's a tragedy this man died in the line of duty saving lives," Kamenetz said. "It's a sad day for Baltimore County, but we're very appreciative of our firefighters and their efforts and the job that they did fighting this fire, and we're very sad for this loss that we have suffered."
Karen McAlonen, vice president of property operations for Morgan Properties, the owner of the complex, released a statement Wednesday evening, stating, "We are deeply saddened to hear the news regarding the fatality of the Baltimore County volunteer firefighter who responded to the scene. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the friends of this brave individual who responded to the scene to assist others in need."
Kamenetz said Falkenhan is the first Baltimore County firefighter to die while fighting a fire on the ground in more than 25 years.
"It was just plain horrible," Trageser said. "I've never seen anything like this in my life."