Missing firefighter's body found in rubble at fire scene in Westland

WESTLAND, Mich (WXYZ) - A missing firefighter's body has been found in the rubble at the scene of a fire in a strip mall in Westland.

Search and rescue crews were searching for 29-year-old Brian Woehlke, he was unaccounted for after battling the flames at the building in Westland. His wife has been notified.

The flag in front of the South Redford Fire Station is already at half staff in Brian's honor. Sources tell 7 Action News, Brian just about to turn 30 and his wife had just had a baby.

"Great attitude, loved coming to work," said a firefighter on the scene.

Brian's uncle spoke with 7 Action News about Brian, saying that he lived for getting on the fire department. His grandpa was a fireman.

"Just one of the greatest kids you'd ever want to meet," said Art Habitz, Brian's uncle. "He was a great father, a great husband."

The Wayne-Westland Fire Department Chief Michael Reddy released the following statement about Brian Woehlke:

"I am here to inform that today; we lost one of our own in a fire.  Brian Woehlke was 29 years old.  He leaves behind his wife Jennifer of 4 years, and his 13 month old daughter Ava.  Brian was hired on July 17, 2012. 

Brian's family would like to pass on to the community that Brian loved going to work every day and he worked his whole life to become a firefighter.  Brian was proud to be a Wayne-Westland Firefighter. He was an excellent employee and was helpful sharing his knowledge with others. He always had a smile on his face. 

I can't express how grateful the fire department and his family are with the amount of support we have received so far.  It is truly overwhelming. We have a great community.

There have been numerous inquiries about donations for the family.  If anyone is interested in donating, please make a check out to the Westland Firefighters Charity, PO Box 851320 Westland, MI 48185 or drop a check off to Station 1, which is located at the southwest corner of Ford Rd and Central City in Westland.  We will be forwarding all money to a trust that is going to be setup by the family for his daughter.

Funeral arrangements are being taken care of at this moment.  As soon as we have more information, we will pass it on. "


Westland Mayor William R. Wild also issued a statement regarding Woehlke's death:

"I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of our Westland firefighters who died in the line of duty this morning. 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. This tragedy is a reminder to us all of the sacrifice that firefighters make along with their family and friends every single day.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends, as well as the first responders of the Wayne-Westland Fire Department, who are mourning the loss of fellow firefighter, Brian Woehlke. Woehlke, 29, a Dearborn resident who was married and the father of one, had been a member of the Wayne-Westland Fire Department for ten (10) months. We are forever appreciative for the brave men and women of the Wayne-Westland Fire Department who put their lives on the line every day."

Woehlke is the first Westland fire fighter to die in the line of duty in the department's 47 year history.

Five firefighters reportedly went in and only four came out after the Electric Stick pool hall went up in flames Wednesday morning. Electric Stick is located on Wayne Road just south of Warren.

A restaurant was also destroyed in the fire.

Black smoke could be seen pouring from the building for miles.

Business owner George Marvaso says, "we will rebuild." Marvaso, a man of strong faith says it is his faith that he will rely on throughout this time.

Electric Stick opened in 1993 as a billiard hall and in recent years had become a charity poker hall.  Over the years, Marvaso has been able to host tournaments that have raised more than $3-million dollars.

All morning, Marvaso could be seen consoling his employees.  He says positivity is what will get him through this hard time.

Geo Marvaso, son of the business owner, says his family is devastated for the firefighter's family and will set up a fundraiser to raise money for Brian's wife and baby.

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