The family, friends and colleagues of District firefighter Anthony Phillips trickled through Bethesda New Life Gospel Church yesterday to pray over his open coffin, console one another and salute a man who died trying to extinguish a blaze inside a vacant Fort Lincoln town house on Sunday.
Phillips, who was assigned to Engine Company 10--known as the House of Pain because it is the busiest in the nation--was a husband and father who impressed colleagues with his energy and enthusiasm. He was working overtime when a fire in the 3100 block of Cherry Road NE apparently knocked him unconscious and later killed him.
"He loved everything" about being a firefighter, said Capt. John Burger, Engine 10's station manager. "He was someone who was always open and receptive to the jokes and the playing that happens in a firehouse. But he was a go-getter and very energetic about his work."
Burger recalled a recent evening when Phillips, 30, of Lanham Hills, had stopped by Engine 10 to pick up his gear.
While Phillips was at the station, the company was called to a fire a block away. When the truck pulled up to the building, Phillips, who was assigned to work overtime at another station that night, was standing on the sidewalk directing the driver.
"He had run out the back door and up the alley," Burger said. "He wasn't going to leave a fire in the neighborhood without being there to help. He loved what he was doing. He was that kind of guy."
Phillips was quick to help paramedics do their job, said A. Porter, a D.C. paramedic who also works as a firefighter in Prince George's County.
"He was always the last to leave the scene," Porter said. "He would help you lift the stretcher because he knew you had been doing it day and night. I cried when I heard what happened."
The Cherry Road fire also claimed the life of firefighter Lewis Matthews, 29, of Engine Company 26, who died Monday from burns. A viewing for Matthews will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. today at St. Paul Baptist Church, 6611 Walker Mill Rd., Capitol Heights.
Firefighter Joseph Morgan Jr., who suffered burns over 60 percent of his body, remains in critical condition at Washington Hospital Center. Fire officials are "cautiously optimistic" about his recovery, Battalion Chief William Mould said. Morgan, 36, of Washington, was scheduled to undergo a second operation today.
"They're not the kind of guys who give you a handshake," Dana Archie, a nine-year department veteran, said of the firefighters. "They give you love."
Archie was working at Engine Company 23 on Sunday when he heard the alarms on the radio and learned the fire in Fort Lincoln was getting out of control.
"I was just hurting," he said. "I was helpless. This has been really tough, but you have to keep going. . . . But I'm hurting. I really am. I had hugged [Matthews] a month ago because I hadn't seen him in so long."
The D.C. Fire Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms continue to investigate the incident. The electrical fire began in the basement and was determined to be accidental, officials said. But investigators have not interviewed all witnesses or listened to communications tapes, which may reveal how the blaze engulfed the town house almost without warning, officials said. The two occupants of the home escaped without injury before firefighters arrived.
"Both of these men exhibited an incredible amount of strength and courage," Fire Chief Donald Edwards said outside the church yesterday. "Their families will be part of the fire service family forever."
Phillips is survived by his wife, Lysa, 26, and their children, Anthony Phillips Jr., 6, and 21-month-old daughter Azrell. Matthews, 29, of Mitchellville, was divorced and had a 2-year-old son, Nicholas, and a 14-year-old stepdaughter.
Phillips's funeral will begin at 10 a.m. at Bethesda New Life Gospel Church, 750 Kenilworth Ave. NE. The funeral procession will travel from the church past Engine 10 headquarters, at 1342 Florida Ave. NE, to Fort Lincoln Cemetery.
FUNERAL LIKELY TO CAUSE TRAFFIC DELAYS
The funeral for firefighter Anthony Phillips will begin at 10 a.m. at Bethesda New Life Gospel Church, 750 Kenilworth Ave. NE.
The procession will travel from the church past Engine Company 27, at 4201 Minnesota Ave. NE, and Engine Company 10, at 1342 Florida Ave. NE, to Fort Lincoln Cemetery.
Traffic delays should be expected on and around Kenilworth Ave NE, Minnesota Avenu Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Maryland Avenue NE, Florida Avenue NE, New York Avenue NE and Bladensburg Road NE.
CAPTION: During a visitation at Bethesda New Life Baptist Church in Northeast, fellow firefighters hug one another. Phillips's funeral is scheduled for today.
CAPTION: Grieving for a Firefighter
Shakin Kelly, right, and RaShonda Douglas comfort each other as friends of D.C. firefighter Anthony Phillips gather at his wake.