Rare Roof Rope Rescue Deployed in Brooklyn Fire

March 5, 2017

On Sunday, March 5th Firefighters of Ladder Company 176 (L-176) performed a rare roof rope rescue to save a civilian from a fire on Rockaway Avenue in Brooklyn.

At 7:33 a.m., FDNY received a call for reports of fire on the first floor at a house of worship in Brownsville, Brooklyn. L-176 and Ladder Company 120 (L-120) were on scene within minutes and reported a heavy smoke condition.

Firefighters from L-120 brought an elderly woman to safety from the second floor. Afterwards, Firefighters were alerted that a civilian was present on the third floor window surrounded by heavy smoke.  Firefighters from L-176 strategically repositioned their truck’s aerial ladder to use it as an anchor to rescue the civilian by performing a last resort rescue tactic – the roof rope rescue.

“We were met with fire on the first floor of the church – we had high heat at the door – at that point we heard someone scream ‘help me, help me.’ At that point in time – our roof team deployed a roof rope rescue,” said Lieutenant Michael Stack of L-176.

Firefighter Andrew Scharf (L-176) and Firefighter Todd Brenner (L-176) determined that a roof rope rescue was necessary to bring the civilian to safety. Firefighter Brenner held the roof position and lowered Firefighter Scharf to bring both he and the civilian to safety.

“We arrived on scene, there was a gentleman on the third floor window – we then proceeded to initiate our roof rope rescue which we train for every day,” said Firefighter Scharf. “We started to communicate with the gentleman to make sure he did not jump out the window – then we proceeded to start our evolution and we tied off the rope to our aerial ladder because there was no substantial object on the roof – then I was lowered to the window by Firefighter Brenner and reached the gentleman.”

“Those guys, they got me out of the building. I was hanging out of the window and they came down from the roof on a rope,” said Ubeaka McKinney, the rescued civilian.

Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro commended the members for safely deploying a rare last resort rescue tactic. “They were ready for the challenge, they are not just called the bravest; they are the bravest,” said Commissioner Nigro. “Once again a roof rope rescue was made in New York City – it’s not done every day – it’s done at extreme risk, done at a last resort, the alternative to that would be [for the] gentleman in dire danger jumping from a third floor window.”

The Commissioner also stressed FDNY’s rigorous training. “Our Firefighters thought quickly and acted promptly,” said Commissioner Nigro. “They used their training, used their tools and saved a man’s life – this happens rarely but what does happen constantly is the display of bravery by members of this department.”

FDNY Deputy Chief Ajello, Division 15 also praised the Firefighter’s great work and synchronization. “We rescued two civilians, one above from the interior and one with a roof rope rescue, a rare move,” said Chief Ajello.

Firefighters train for roof rope rescues under controlled conditions at the Fire Academy on Randall’s Island. This last resort tactic is extremely risky under conditions of high heat, heavy smoke, and darkness with distressed civilians.

This past October, a similar roof rope rescue took place in Manhattan. Read more about it here.