October 28, 2016
On October 28, 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro visited Engine Company 53 and Ladder Company 43 in Harlem to recognize and thank FDNY Firefighters from multiple companies for their great work at a six-alarm fire on East 93rd Street in Manhattan on October 27.
Mayor de Blasio commended the 50 units and 240 FDNY members who battled the fire, including Firefighter Jim Lee of Rescue 1, who was part of a team of Firefighters that executed rare roof rope rescue technique to save an 81-year-old man a fifth floor window of a building engulfed in flames.
“It is an amazing thing that when you know you saved a life. There is no question about this one,” said Mayor de Blasio. "Thank God for your teamwork and dedication to each other. It’s like something out of an action movie, that with just seconds to spare you could get someone to safety."
FDNY received the call at 3:24 a.m. and arrived on scene in five minutes. The fire quickly escalated and spread throughout the building, with flames shooting 20 feet in the air from the roof. Fleeing occupants from the apartment where the fire began left the door open, allowing it to quickly spread. Tragically, one person was killed in the fire. Firefighters were able to bring the fire under control more than four hours later.
“The same thing I’ve thought for 47 years since I’ve started at the Fire Department, is that [FDNY members] are the greatest, they proved that once again,” said Commissioner Nigro. “We did have Firefighter Lee go over the edge. Without the support of the other Firefighters, it couldn’t have happened. They should be all very proud of themselves as I’m proud of them for what they do. Very few people in life risk their lives for others, and they obviously did that.”
Firefighter Lee recounted the rescue operation and credited the collaboration of multiple FDNY companies.
“The only thing going through my head was that we had to get this guy, who was in absolute peril,” said Firefighter Lee. “We saw him from the roof. The amount of heat that was coming up from the roofline indicated the danger he was in. We set up and got ready to go.”
Firefighter Lee praised his fellow Firefighters for the success of the operation, adding, “the speed and professionalism that they showed up on top (of the roof) with getting everything ready, I was just a guy on a rope but the [Firefighters] made the evolution happen, it was a seamless operation.”
Firefighter Andrew Hawkins of Ladder Company 43 helped control the rope while Firefighter Joe Moore of Ladder Company 13 held the roof positon and guided Firefighter Lee and the rope.
“This was a last resort, an absolute last resort, all the training comes back and the training works,” said Firefighter Hawkins. “Everything worked out right, we did a good job and that’s all we try to do, a collective effort.”
Firefighter Walter Gilroy assisted the rescue by positioning himself as the anchor of rope and Firefighter Peter McMahon supported the rescue as an additional guide. Firefighters Gilroy and McMahon are both stationed in Ladder Company 26.
“There was not much visibility and all I could hear was the voice of the civilian,” said Firefighter Gilroy “Everything could have gone wrong. The rope could have snapped. We knew we had about a minute to get this all done.”
For photos of the Mayor and Fire Commissioner at Engine Company 53 and Ladder Company 43, click here.
For video footage of the roof rope rescue click here.