Two York City firefighters killed in collapse at Weaver Piano Co. fire

Two York City firefighters were killed when a wall collapsed Thursday at the former Weaver Piano & Organ Co. building, which had been heavily damaged in a fire that began the day before.

Ivan Flanscha, 50, of York Township, died just before 4 p.m. at York Hospital, according to a report from the York County Coroner's Office.

Zachary Anthony, 29, also died at York Hospital, according to a news release from York City.

York City firefighters Don Newcomer, left, and Ivan Flanscha, right, string up the last strand of lights outside of the station at South Duke and East King Streets in York, Pa. on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. Chief David P. Michaels wanted the design to compliment what Royal Square is doing. It is the first time in more than 50 years since the station has decorated for the holidays. (Dawn J. Sagert - The York Dispatch)

Two other firefighters, Erik Swanson and Assistant Chief Greg Altland, were being treated for non-life-threatening injuries, according to the city.

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich, in an evening news conference at City Hall, called it "a tragic day in York's history."

"This is the worst day in my career," said York City Fire Chief David Michaels.

"These are the guys you wanted in the fire truck," he said of Flanscha and Anthony.

Michaels continued, saying the department has not gone through something like this since 1971. 

"No department wants to go through this," he said, adding that they were going to lean on a lot of people. 

The surviving injured firefighters also will be "key in our healing process," Michaels said.

Collapse: The York County coroner was called to York Hospital after a wall collapsed at the 127 N. Broad St. fire scene Thursday afternoon.

A three-alarm fire was reported there shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 21. Firefighters remained at the scene through the night and continued to put out hot spots Thursday. 

Four firefighters were taken away in ambulances after a mayday call went out shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday, March 22, according to York County 911 dispatches.

York City Firefighter Zach Anthony helps four-year-old Zyera Preston, of York City, down from Engine 99-6 while letting her explore the fire truck during the South Duke Street Block Party in York City, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

A wall on the south side of the building along Philadelphia Street collapsed, bringing that part of the four-story building down as firefighters were inside, according to  Helfrich.

Helfrich said the four firefighters were trapped, and they were all taken to York Hospital after being extricated.

Flanscha was the York City Firefighter of the Year for 2004, and Anthony had been with the department since 2010.

Helfrich said fire departments from Lancaster, Hanover and Harrisburg had stepped in to offer assistance, manning York City's fire stations and agreeing to stay on and help as long as needed.

Andrew Panteris, of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) said peer groups would be brought in to help the families of the fallen.

Some families living on Walnut Street were displaced by the collapse and were being cared for at a nearby church, Helfrich said.

The blaze the day before had partially destroyed the historic factory that was in the process of being converted into apartments.

More:After fire and partial collapse, chief says unclear if Weaver Piano building is total loss

Flanscha: At the ceremony where Flanscha was named Firefighter of the Year for 2004, now-retired Fire Chief John Senft said Flanscha "always displayed a consciousness to duty and a strong desire to help others."

Senft recalled that Flanscha rescued a person trapped in a South Queen Street house fire several years earlier — for which he received a chief's commendation  — and volunteered his time with the department's Honor Guard and Combat Challenge Team and as an emergency-care instructor.

Flanscha also served as a member of the Professional Firefighters Association's executive board and prepared musical selections for the department's annual memorial service.

The chief also commended Flanscha for buying blighted properties in York City and renovating them.

"I was really surprised," Flanscha had said after being honored. "I didn't feel like I had a spectacular year in 2004 ... and there are so many other worthy people."

At the time, he and his wife, Tina, had three daughters.

He said his two older girls often accompanied him to the fire station, where they get to "drive" the fire truck and eat ice cream.

"They like to go everywhere with me," he said.

Weaver building: Almost a century after the peak of the piano manufacturing industry, the Weaver Piano & Organ Co. building was soon to get a new lease on life.

Real estate developer Matt Steinkamp and Lara Bushey, his wife and business partner, were planning to convert the former factory into a modern apartment building with 42 market-rate units, Steinkamp said last year.

The building was to include one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, with floor space ranging from 750 square feet to 1,200 square feet, he said.

Steinkamp said in May 2017 he and Bushey expected the project to be complete this spring or summer.

Michaels said his department has made contact with the owners as well as with the trade workers who were helping with the renovation.

The property opened as an organ-production facility around 1880, and it eventually grew to a third of the size of the building that stands there today, according to the developer.

There were multiple renovations and additions to the building between 1880 and the peak of the piano industry in the 1920s, when the Weaver Piano & Organ Co. produced 45 to 50 pianos daily, he said.

After the stock market crashed in 1929, the automobile replaced the piano as society’s preeminent status symbol and “pretty much wiped out the piano industry,” Steinkamp said.

The building became a distribution center for Mailman’s department store in the 1960s and '70s before being used as an auto repair shop and, more recently, for storage, he said.

— Editor's note: This report has been corrected to note the York County Coroner's Office was dispatched to York Hospital, not to the fire scene.