Two men pleaded guilty on Friday to manslaughter charges in the death of a Fire Department battalion chief in an explosion of a Bronx house that had been used to grow marijuana, the authorities said.
The chief, Michael J. Fahy, was the incident commander on a call about a gas smell coming from a two-story house on West 234th Street in the Kingsbridge neighborhood on Sept. 27, 2016. The house exploded, sending wood, bricks and a large part of the building’s roof tumbling down. Chief Fahy, 44, was struck by debris and killed.
Investigators found numerous marijuana plants as well as heaters and fertilizer at the site. The second-floor windows were covered by foil panels, preventing the floor from being ventilated of the leaking gas, the Bronx district attorney, Darcel D. Clark, said in a statement on Friday.
The police had been looking at that street after receiving a tip that a house there was being used to grow marijuana, the police said at the time. An investigation was in its early stages at the time of the explosion.
The two men charged in the case, Garivaldi Castillo, 33, of Manhattan, and Julio Salcedo, 36, pleaded guilty in Bronx Supreme Court to second-degree manslaughter and first-degree criminal possession of marijuana, the district attorney’s statement said.
As part of a plea agreement, Mr. Castillo will be sentenced to two to six years in prison on the manslaughter charge and five years on the marijuana charge, with the sentences to run concurrently. Mr. Salcedo will be sentenced to one to three years on the manslaughter charge and four years on the marijuana charge, also to run concurrently, the statement said.
Chief Fahy became a New York City firefighter in 1999, and climbed the ranks of the department in the years after Sept. 11, 2001. At the time of his death, he was commanding some people who were a decade older than he.
He was well-regarded by his peers and seen as someone who could fill any role. His higher rank did not separate him from the people he commanded, however. He cooked with them and ate with them in the firehouse, and responded to calls with them.
Brian Fink, the commander of Battalion 19, who handpicked Chief Fahy to work for him, recalled in 2016: “He was cool, calm, collected at fires. He did a great job. He kept the guys safe. He’s what you want every chief to be.”
Chief Fahy, himself the son of a retired battalion chief, had graduated from law school, passed the bar exams in New York and New Jersey, and earned a master’s degree in homeland security from the Naval Postgraduate School. He worked for about nine months as a lawyer before deciding he wanted to join the Fire Department.
Chief Fahy, who lived in Yonkers, was married and had two sons and a daughter. He coached his children’s basketball and soccer teams and attended Mass every Sunday. His colleagues said he was focused and analytical, and had a genuine dedication to public service.
Ms. Clark, the district attorney, said the chief responded to the call of a gas leak and ordered the residents, including one of the defendants, to leave. “Battalion Chief Michael Fahy spent the last moments of his life of public service saving others,” she said.