The cause of a blaze that claimed the life of a New Haven firefighter last year could not be determined, officials said Thursday.
There was no criminal aspect to the fire on May 12, when firefighter Ricardo Torres Jr. perished, state police said, but the cause remains unknown due to the extent of damage and lack of physical evidence.
Firefighters got the call about a fire at 190 Valley St. at 12:44 a.m. A person was reported to be trapped inside the two-story house. Firefighters rescued an elderly woman from the first floor, but conditions inside quickly deteriorated.
Torres radioed that he was under duress. Fellow firefighters pulled him from the second floor, but he was unresponsive and later pronounced dead at Yale New Haven Hospital. An autopsy found Torres died of asphyxia. Fire Lt. Samod Rankins also was rescued from the structure and suffered serious injuries that required a long recovery, authorities said
Investigators found that the fire started in the basement and spread to the first and second floors, causing severe damage.
Torres, who was 30 when he died, was nicknamed “Tornado” due to his high energy. He had been on the job less than two years, fulfilling a dream he held since boyhood. Thousands of firefighters from across the state and country, including personnel from Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C., traveled to New Haven for his funeral.
On Thursday, the one-year anniversary of Torres’ death, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker joined Fire Chief John Alston, Jr. and other firefighters in a memorial ceremony at the Dixwell Station, Engine 6, where he was assigned.
Jesse Leavenworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org