A small bouquet of dandelions lay on the front porch of the two-story home.
It was placed there by a 5-year-old girl who lives across the street, a small tribute to the man who lived there and died this morning serving his community.
Brian Woehlke, 29, was just 10 months into his dream job as a Wayne-Westland firefighter when he was killed after a roof collapsed on him during a fire at a strip mall. He was the first firefighter killed in the line of duty in the Westland department’s 47-year history.
Family members, firefighters and neighbors mourned the death of the married father described as outgoing and happy, a man who never shied away from helping someone in need.
“He was just a great guy, in all ways,” said neighbor Maureen Ewasek, 80.
It’s not yet known what caused the blaze that destroyed the Electric Stick, a billiards hall in business for 20 years, and Marvaso’s Italian Grille, which has been open for 10 years.
Firefighters responded there after receiving calls about 8:17 a.m. A mayday call, indicating a firefighter in distress, was issued through the communications system about 9:30 a.m.
Mayor William Wild said Woehlke was inside when a roof collapsed. His body was recovered about 12:40 p.m.
The department is devastated, Wild said, but “we’re focusing on the family at this point.”
“He dedicated his life to protecting the residents of Wayne and Westland, and this is a terrible loss for the firefighter’s family and our entire community,” Wild said in a statement. “This tragedy is a reminder to us all of the sacrifice that firefighters make along with their family and friends every single day.”
Deputy Fire Chief Rob Arbini said Woehlkehad a “great attitude, loved coming to work.”
Woehlke, a Dearborn resident, was married and the father of a 13-month-old girl.
Arbini said it’s been a difficult day.
“Right now, it’s one of those days that got us, and we’re going to do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t get us again,” he said.
Arbini said Woehlke is the department’s first firefighter killed while fighting a fire, though another firefighter died a few years ago of what was believed to be job-related cancer.
Firefighters were still putting out hot spots this afternoon at the strip mall, located at Hunter and Wayne roads. Fire departments — including Inkster, Garden City, Livonia and Northville — assisted.