WOODMERE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island firefighter was critically injured while battling a fire at a home in Nassau County on Friday morning.

As CBS2’s Ilana Gold reported, doctors at North Shore University Hospital are keeping a close eye on Joseph Sanford, who remains in critical condition.

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Sanford, a 17-year veteran volunteer with the Inwood Fire Department, fell through one of the floors of the home on Central Avenue in Woodmere.

“We are all very close and it’s going to take its toll on the membership. There is no question about it,” said Chief Anthony Rivelli, with the Inwood Fire Department.

Sanford was unaccounted for for several minutes before fellow firefighters found him in cardiac arrest under water and debris. He was revived and rushed to North Shore University Hospital.

Now, Sanford is recovering with his wife and daughter by his side.

“He’s the strongest man I know,” said neighbor Joey Saldutti. “He’s a sweet man. This is killing us, it’s killing us.”

It was a heartbreaking blow for Sandford’s neighbors, as well as the Inwood Fire Department, where there’s now an empty space on Sanford’s rack of gear marked with his nickname, Junior.

Sanford once served as assistant fire chief of the department from 2007 through 2011.

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He’s also known as the most physically fit member of the department, coaching and playing for the semi-pro football team the Golden Eagles.

“This is a devastating occurrence for us,” said David Friend, the owner of the Woodmere home and Vice President of CBS2 News.

Friend said no one was inside when the fire started. He and his wife had just finished renovating the brick colonial, now charred and gutted.

“We are so saddened by the situation, and the Woodmere Fire Department and all the fire departments here are volunteer and our hearts go out to them,” said Friend’s wife, Wendy Kaplan Friend.

So far, investigators have not said exactly what caused the blaze, but said rags soaked with staining material for recently varnished floors may have been a factor.

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