December 15, 2017
On Friday, December 15, 2017, FDNY members rescued seven members of one family from an early morning fire in Manhattan.
At 3:17 a.m., FDNY was called to a 6-story building on East 112th Street in Harlem. As Firefighters were responding to the scene, fire alarm dispatchers were notifying them that people were trapped inside the apartment. As they arrived at the building, trapped occupants were visible at the window.
“We knew that we had people trapped. It was a heavy smoke condition with limited visibility. That’s where our training comes in,” said FDNY Lt. Ryan MacDougall, Ladder Company 43.
Firefighters forced entry into the apartment and found a fire burning in a living room with multiple people trapped down the hall in three bedrooms. With no fire escape, a roaring fire, and a heavy smoke condition, they had no way out. In one bedroom was an adult female and four young children; in a second bedroom, a teenager and the family dog; and in the final bedroom, an adult male attempting to break windows and screaming to the street below for help for the trapped family. Firefighters from Engine Company 53 and Engine Company 91 held the fire back, enabling members from Ladder Company 43 to enter the building in search of patients.
Lt. Ryan MacDougall and Firefighter Osmar Martinez of Ladder Company 43 made their way to the room with the trapped female and children. “I couldn’t see them, but I heard them coughing,” said Firefighter Martinez. “I grabbed the kids and told the woman to follow me and listen to my voice. After they were safe, I went back in. That’s when I found the fifth kid and his dog. He was reluctant to leave the dog behind, so Lt. MacDougall grabbed the kid, and I took the dog.”
This was the first rescue for Probationary Firefighter Amir Francis, Ladder Company 43, who located and rescued the adult male alongside Firefighter Justin Pelka, Ladder Company 26 (assigned to Ladder Company 43). Probationary Firefighter Francis said, “I continued down the hallway into the last bedroom, and that’s when I found the male occupant on the floor, gasping for air. I transmitted the info and said that I needed assistance. I saw a light at the window, and Firefighter Justin Pelka made his way from the ladder and through the window and helped me remove the patient.”
“I removed the child gates from the window, and found Probationary Firefighter Francis, who had the gentleman’s arm, and I took his other arm,” said Firefighter Pelka. “All that was going through my mind was that we had to get him out. And we did. It was a great team effort.”
“This is a very dangerous time of year, but in this instance, we had a wonderful, early Christmas gift, saving seven members of this family,” said Battalion Chief Anthony Saccavino, Battalion 12.
Fire Marshals determined the fire was caused by a space heater connected to an extension cord and a power strip. A smoke alarm was present, but not operational. Appliances, heaters, and air conditioners should always be plugged directly into a wall, and never into an extension cord or power strip. Space heaters should never be left on while sleeping. See more fire safety tips at www.fdnysmart.org.