On June 5, 1998, I was home watching TV. It was about 7:30 pm when Fire Dispatcher Warren Fuchs told all units to standby for a mixer off message. This quickly got my attentions, so I locked my scanner on to Brooklyn fire radio. An urgent request was made for numerous EMS units to respond. 2nd and 3rd alarms were transmitted. I grabbed my photo gear and headed out towards Brooklyn. It took me 20 minutes to respond from Whitestone, Queens to East New York, Brooklyn. It was mostly highway driving and traffic was light. When I arrived I walked up onto the overpass on Atlantic Ave. The fire building was below the overpass on the south side of Atlantic Ave. Firefighters were concentrating there efforts on rescuing trapped firefighters. Three Firefighters were removed prior to my arrival. At least one was reported in extremely critical condition. There was still a firefighter missing. Numerous firefighters were operating in and around a store front on the first floor. Fire conditions quickly worsened, 4th and 5th Alarms were transmitted. The firefighter was rescued and removed to an ambulance. The fire started in the basement of 2530 Atlantic Ave. The box came in as reported persons trapped. Engine 332 and ladder 176 were searching the top floor of exposure 2, when suddenly the top floor stairway collapsed into the first floor which was heavily involved in fire. Captain Scott LaPietra, Lt. James Blackmore, Lt. Timothy Stackpole, FF. Terence Quinn and FF. Brian Baiker fell into the burning first floor. firefighters immediately started to rescue the trapped firefighters. Lt. Blackmore was rescued from the inferno suffering from severe burns and multiple trauma injuries. He was rushed to Brookldale Hospital. Clergy was summoned to respond to the Emergency room. Lt. Timothy Stackpole, FF. Terence Quinn and FF. Brian Baiker were rescued and removed to nearby hospitals and were transferred to the Burn Center. I watched as Captain Scott LaPietra was brought out and was rushed to an awaiting ambulance. Lt. Blackmore did not survive his injuries. Captain Scott LaPietra suffered severe burns and passed away on July 4th. Lt. Timothy Stackploe suffered severe burns but was determined to return to the job he loved. Through hard work and rehabilitation that took almost 2 years, Lt. Stackpole returned to work, only to be killed in the terrorist attack on 9/11/01. Fire Dispatcher Warren Fuchs was exceptional as he handled the radio during the tragedy. He recently retired and his voice on the Brooklyn Fire radio will be missed.
Firefighters attempt to knock down some fire with a fire extinguisher as a handline is moved into position.
A handline is getting into position
The rescue effort is concentrated in the storefront.
An injured firefighter is being removed from the collapse.
The Firefighter is being rushed to an awaiting ambulance.
A medivac chopper was ordered to the scene
After being stablized by the closest Emergency Room, Firefighters were transfered to the Burn Center.
Chief Donald Burns ( Who was killed on 9-11-01) directs operations at the Command Post.
As firefighters were concentrating on the rescue efforts, the fire continue to grow in size.
Fourth and Fifth Alarms were transmitted.
Ladder Company 175 used their ladder pipe.
This photo was taken on the following day.
When I returned to the scene the next day about 11:30 am, the building was in the process of being demolished. I thought it was unusual for the building to be demolished so fast, only hours after the tragedy. It was reported that the basement wall connecting the fire building to exposure 2 was illegally removed. This was unknown to firefighters. It was also reported that the city owned the building.
Captain Scott LaPietra passed away on July 4th 1998. More than 10,000 firefighters attended his funeral.
Thousands of firefighters salute Captain LaPietra as he leaves the Church. First Deputy Commissioner and former Chief of Department Bill Feehan is standing next to the Fire Commissioner and the Mayor. (Bill was Killed on 9/11/01).