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Roll call had just been completed and the members of E-301 L-150 were ready for a hot summer night tour. At 18:47 hours a phone alarm was received for "smoke on the 1st floor of a private dwelling" at 196-03 Jamaica Ave. Both companies were assigned 1st due with the location being one block from quarters.
On arrival, heavy black smoke was seen pushing from a 2nd floor window of what turned out to be a multiple dwelling. E-301 transmitted a 10-75 for fire on the 2nd floor of a 2-story multiple dwelling. With the companies getting into position, L-150's chauffeur, E.J. Maloney, received reports from the Queens dispatch of persons trapped on the 2nd floor. This information was quickly relayed to all members via the handy talkie. Maloney then positioned the aerial ladder to the roof and assisted the roofman in getting to the roof.
After forcing entry into the dwelling, Lt. Rice and the inside team of L-150 were met by heavy smoke on the first floor. Visibility was zero and with the use of his thermal imaging camera, Lt. Rice determined the fire actually to be on the first floor down the hall and that the door was left open. This information was relayed to Lt. Kudlak of E-301. Dense black smoke severely exposed the floor above and stairwell blocking the only means of egress for residents on the 2nd floor.
FF Michael Cunningham of L-150 was assigned the O.V. position. While making his way to the rear, he had heard all the radio transmissions and knew that he might be the only chance these residents on the 2nd floor would have. He first encountered a locked courtyard gate on the exposure 4 side. FF Cunningham used the power saw and cut the lock. Upon making his way to the rear, he noticed heavy fire venting out two windows on the 1st floor exposure 4 side. He relayed this information to his officer. Now in the courtyard, FF Cunningham observed a panicked woman about to jump from a 2nd floor window. She was sitting on the window sill and her legs were dangling. Numerous civilians in the courtyard were screaming for her to jump. FF Cunningham silenced the crowd and assured the woman to stay put while he retrieved a 24 foot extension ladder from his rig. He also noticed an injured civilian who had jumped. FF Cunningham called for medical help to this location. FF Cunningham returned with the ladder and removed the panicked woman safely. She informed Cunningham that there was nobody left in her apartment. Hearing the reports of persons trapped on the 2nd floor from FF Maloney and knowing the 2nd due truck was still not in, FF Cunningham realized that the apartment directly above the fire was the most seriously exposed and the most likely spot that a person would be trapped. Considering that people were jumping from windows not directly above the fire apartment, FF Cunningham knew that was the apartment he needed to search.
In order to do so, FF Cunningham repositioned the ladder to the second floor window which was directly over the window on the 1st floor that fire was venting from. After donning his facepiece he ascended the ladder and removed the window with his hand tools and after making notification to his officer, he quickly made entry.
In zero visibility, and high heat conditions and faced with a near "collier's" condition, FF Cunningham made his way through the unusual amount of furniture before finding a semi-conscious elderly female. Mrs. Belcher was in a fetal position; Cunningham transmitted a 10-45 and began dragging the woman toward the window. FF Cunningham realized that removing Mrs. Belcher via the portable would expose her to the fire venting from the 1st floor window. FF Maloney knowing Cunningham would need help, quickly ascended the ladder. Fire was still venting out the 1st floor window putting Maloney in a dangerous position.
Maloney cleared the remainder of the window and decided it would be too dangerous to remove her via portable ladder. So without many options, Maloney found an area by the window with breathable air, and positioned Mrs. Belcher's face as to take advantage of this. Notification was made to Lt. Rice of their decision and he concurred with their actions. FF Maloney requested and was handed up a mask for which he used to provide air to Mrs. Belcher.
FF Cunningham continued his search of the apartment and the public hallway. At this time the members of L-165 arrived and with their inside team, they forced the door to apartment 3B. Ladder 165 made a search of the apartment, the search was negative.
With E-301 making progress on the fire floor and with the smoke and heat venting through the skylight, FF's Cunningham and Maloney removed Mrs. Belcher via the interior stairs. She was transported to the hospital in serious condition. Mrs. Belcher is alive today thanks to professional teamwork of all the members that operated at Box 5341. Specifically FF Cunningham and FF Maloney who put themselves in extreme danger to save another human's life.
Other 2009 Bravest Award Winners:
• Ladder 147
• Ladder 32
• Marine 1
• Ladder 136
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