FDNY officials recounting yesterday’s heroic rope rescue of occupants trapped in a burning high-rise building said firefighters were prepared to win as yesterday’s event unfolded.
Firefighters were called to the 37-story building at 429 East 52nd Street where heavy fire conditions inside the apartment prevented the escape of three occupants. The occupants were forced to retreat to the windows.
“This required a herculean team effort from our members. In total we put four of our members on a lifesaving rope. We train on that; we train on all of our procedures often,” FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Frank Leeb said in a statement. “FDNY procedures fundamentally value the team effort, individuals execute that. That is what we saw inside the fire building.”
Download: FDNY Tip from Training #145
Leeb said a firefighter from Ladder 16 was lowered from the 21st floor and, after making contact with the victim, found they were caught on a child gate before entering a 19th floor window.
“That rope system was reset and another firefighter (Artur Podgorski) was lowered to the victim and held onto the victim,” Leeb said. “A member from Rescue 1 (Darren Harsch) came down with a Halligan and was able to get the window gate freed, this allowed the whole weight of the victim to be on the (second) Firefighter from Ladder 16.”
“My role was to go under the victim and start to hold her weight, so the member above me could free her arm and I could hold her and bring her safely below,” Podgorski said. “It is a team effort, you have to put trust in the members above and below you. This is why we train, when moments like this happen there is no room for mistakes, we fall back on our training.”
Podgorski and the victim were lowered to the 19th floor where they were pulled in a window by firefighters.
Harsch – the recipient of the 2021 Firehouse Michael O. McNamee Award of Valor – was able to secure the second victim before the team lowered them to the 19th floor.
“A fourth member then went on rope from Ladder 2 and was lowered to the floor below, at that point the inside team was able to remove the additional victims from inside the apartment.”
The cost of failure is great both to civilians and our members, they expect us to come prepared and we came prepared, we always do. We have a winning mindset in the FDNY, we play to win on every run, every tour, and every day,” said Leeb.
Training, teamwork and the winning mindset were the focus of Leeb’s Firehouse Expo 2022 keynote address in Columbus in September. You can watch the keynote above.
“The cause of this fire is a lithium ion battery which is meant to power a micro mobility device,” FDNY Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn said. “This is close to our 200th fire this year caused by lithium ion batteries from micro mobility devices. The fire was right behind the front door, we recovered at least fives bikes from the apartment.”
The fire left 38 people injured, with five suffering life-threatening injuries, FDNY officials said.
“I cannot emphasize enough the extraordinary work of our members this morning in unbelievably dangerous conditions,” said FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.
FDNY issued a Tips from Training bulletin Saturday night that reviewed the incident, including the use of their roof rescue ropes and training.