Wayne-Westland firefighter's death shocks community

29-year-old firefighter Brian Woehlke killed when roof collapses at strip mall fire in Westland; fire cause still unknown

By Mara MacDonald - Reporter


What could have caused a pool hall and the restaurant next door to go up in flames early Wednesday morning in Westland?

That question is on the collective mind of an entire community left mourning a beloved firefighter and father.

The fire started about 8 a.m. and consumed a portion of the strip mall on Wayne Road. At 9:30 a.m. the distress call came from 29-year-old firefighter Brian Woehlke. He was crushed when the roof of the building collapsed.

The rest of the day was spent removing debris to find Woehlke's body. The husband and father of a 13-month-old girl loved being a firefighter.

"Well, (his wife) is pretty, pretty broken up. She's a school teacher and they had to go down to the school and tell her. Pretty, pretty rough," said Art Habitz, Woehlke's uncle. "It almost takes your breath away. You don't know what to say. I mean, how could this happen?"

Never in 47 years has the Wayne-Westland Fire Department lost a firefighter on the job. They are holding it together the best that they can.

"Essentially I am going to make a statement on behalf of the family that Brian loved going to work everyday and he worked his whole life to become a firefighter. He was proud to be a Wayne-Westland firefighter," said Deputy Fire Chief Rob Arbini.

Those who saw what happened on TV gathered in the strip mall parking lot Wednesday night to light candles and pray.

Anyone who wishes to help the Woehlke family with donations 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 Road and Central City in Westland.

The department will be forwarding all money to a trust that is going to be setup by the family for his daughter.

Reddy says funeral arrangements are being taken care of.

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