Darryl Gordon, 54, is the first Cincinnati firefighter to die in the line of duty since 2003.
Mayor John Cranley is holding an 11 a.m. press conference to discuss the incident.
A second Cincinnati firefighter and some residents were hurt when flames roared through the second floor of a building at King Tower Apartments on Dahlgren Street about 5:30 a.m.
"We could just use the community's prayers, the prayers for the family, we have one of our brothers in dire straits," Fire Chief Richard Braun said at the scene.
The other firefighter hurt has second-degree burns, and residents suffered smoke inhalation when flames broke out on the second floor shortly after 5:30 a.m., he said.
Crews issued "Mayday, mayday, mayday!" when they spotted the firefighter down and worked carefully to rescue him without causing further injury.
"If he comes loose, he falls another floor!" a firefighter shouted on a fire radio.
The firefighter was extricated from the shaft by 6:38 a.m. His colleagues placed him on a stretcher and ran him out of the building into a waiting ambulance. He was taken to a hospital.
Fire crews also rescued several residents trapped on upper floors, including a toddler.
Braun explained the everyday risks to firefighting.
"Fire scenes are horribly difficult to work in," he said. "We can't see. The scene constantly changes on you. It's hard to keep the direction you are going in. Our main goal is to keep our civilians safe and mitigate damage as much as we can. We put ourselves in harm's way everyday and, unfortunately, things happen."
Crews initially responded to the building by 5:45 a.m. after a resident called 911 to report a unit was burning, and her neighbors were trying to exit off a balcony.
The blaze was reported under control by 6 a.m., but several residents were still visible in windows above the second floor as firefighters continued evacuations. Some residents called 911 seeking help, including one woman who said she was on her balcony.
A Metro bus was dispatched to the area to shelter the displaced neighbors from the cold and rain.
The last Cincinnati firefighter who died in the line of duty was Oscar Armstrong III. The 25-year-old became trapped in a flashover while battling a house fire on Laidlaw Avenue in Bond Hill on March 21, 2003. He left behind two children and a pregnant fiance.
At the time, it was Cincinnati fire department's first line-of-duty death since Jan. 28, 2981.
Regionally, this is the first fire death in Hamilton County since April 4, 2008, when Colerain Township Fire Captain Robin Broxterman, 37, the mother of two children, and Firefighter Brian Schira, 29, died. The floor they were on collapsed into the burning basement of the house on Squirrels Nest Lane.
Also, 14 years ago this month, William "Doc" Ellison, 38, died days after plunging 10 feet while searching a burning home in Clermont County's Miami Township on March 8, 2001. He left behind a wife and young children.FOX19 NOW has a crew on scene and will continue to update this breaking story.