My Stories and FDNY History

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Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, a nice middle class neighborhood. Ocean Avenue being a main drag, with mostly 6 story apartment houses lining both sides of the 4 lane street, two lanes on each side, one going north towards prospect park and the other going south towards Emmons Avenue. Brooklyn's major fishing fleet boats are docked along Emmons Ave, along with Lundys , the famous Seafood Restaurant The sun was shining brightly on that Friday morning on August 2nd 1978. The tempeture was about 75 Degrees and the wind was blowing about 15 mph. It was a relatively quiet morning. At about 8:15 am, workers noticed smoke emmimating from the mezzanine level of the Waldbaums supermarket on Ocean Ave. in Brooklyn. The supermarket was under going under extensive renovations. Workers immediately notified the fire department of the situation. At 08:17 hours box 3300 was transmitted for a reported fire in a supermarket at Ocean Ave and Ave Y. After receiving another phone call and the pulled street box. Three engine Companies, and two ladder companies, along with the 33 Battalion were dispatched to the scene. Upon arrival Engine co 254 noticing a smoke condition transmitted a signal 10-75 to the Brooklyn dispatch office via radio, signaling a working structural fire. Engine 354 stretched a handline into the supermarket while the first due truck ladder 153 started their primary search. Workers immediately pointed out to the firefighters where the fire apparently started. Due to the ongoing renovations, the fire was quickly spreading into the mezzanine and cockloft area. The 2nd due truck company raised their aerial ladder to the roof and commenced roof operations, Fire dept procedure dictates that the roof has to be ventilated by using saws to open up holes on the roof over the area of fire, so the super heated gases and smoke or flames could ventilate itself, allowing engine companies to advance their hose lines and also allowing truck companies to perform their searches for any possible trapped victims, upon arrival the 33rd battalion reported to the Brooklyn dispatch central office, that he was using all hands(meaning that all companies were being put to work), and that the fire was doubtful will hold (meaning, the fire was out of control). He then ordered an additional engine and ladder company to the scene ant appox 0820 hours. As conditions were worsening the 33rd battalion ordered a Second alarm. Bring an additional 3 engine and 2 ladder companies to the scene. Along with the field COM unit and the maxi water unit and Satellite Company, and additional battalion and assistant chief were also dispatched. As units were operating on the roof of the supermarket, conditions quickly worsened, Fire was now showing through the roof in 2 areas, At appox 9:02 am the roof suddenly collapsed sending at least 12 firefighters into the inferno….

BEEP!!!!BEEP!!!! Attention all Ems units a signal 10-22 code B, has been transmitted in the boro of Brooklyn, the location, Ocean Ave & Ave Y, Coney Island unit 312 come in. My partner Oliver Morris answered the radio, Coney 312 K, EMS 312 respond to the 10-22, location, Ocean Ave and Ave Y time out 0822 hrs. Dispatcher 842. 312 10-04, responding. When we arrived at the scene I noticed smoke coming from 2 different sections of the roof area, my partner and I exited the vehicle and reported to the EMS command post. Lt. Robert Becker told us our services would not be needed because unit 311, whose primary area this fire was located in was also at the scene at this time. I asked Lt. Becker if we could stick around, he told us we could if we remained in service for other calls. At this time I went to the corner of Ocean Ave and Ave Y, and took out my little minox 35mm camera and started to take photos. There were at least 12 firefighters operating on the roof of the supermarket at this time. I noticed heavy smoke coming from one section of the roof and firefighters using saws and pike poles opening up the roof. I then went to the front of the supermarket and took some photos looking at the front of the supermarket. I noticed an aerial ladder raised up onto the roof and a hoseline stretched up the ladder, also it seemed that the smoke condition was worsening, I took about 4 photos, then I ran out of film, in the next few seconds flames suddenly shot out of the roof about 60 feet in the air, the next thing I see is a commotion in front of the supermarket. Lt. Robert Becker was screaming into his portable radio, asking for every available ambulance in the Brooklyn south area to respond to the scene, that there was a major collapse and that numerous firefighters were injured and trapped in the blaze. In the next few seconds firefighters were being dragged out of the inferno, this time the supermarket was fully engulfed in flames, the scene became one of mayhem and confusion. Numerous injured firefighters were either being dragged out by fellow firefighters or were crawling or staggering out of the supermarket on their own. I quickly ran to my ambulance which was nearby and grabbed my o2, my tech bag and other supplies along with the stretcher, anticipating numerous serious injuries, the scene in front of the supermarket was one of ciaos. I could hear numerous sirens in the background getting louder. First I administered o2 to a firefighter who was having difficulty in breathing, then I splinted a firefighter who had a fractured leg, next I treated another firefighter who had severe burns on his arms and face, then I put on a sling and cravat on a firefighter who separated his shoulder. At this time other units began arriving on the scene, My partner Oliver Morris who was also treating numerous firefighters called to me that they loaded a severely burned firefighter in our ambulance using another units stretcher. Seeing the serious burns I knew we had to remove him immediately to the hospital. Also numerous units had arrived and were treating and triaging the firefighters at the scene, I jumped into my bus and started to administer oxygen to FF TerranceCampbell of ladder co 153. He was in a state of shock, he received 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his face, scalp and upper extremities and he appeared to be in severe pain. The protocol then was to use sterile water on the burns, which I applied, which gave him some relief, We were ordered by the dispatch center to transport FF Campbell to Long Island collage hospital, because the closest hospital, Coney Island hospital was being swamped with numerous injuries. Long Island Collage hospital was located on the other side of Brooklyn, but with lights and sirens we made it under 20 minutes, Firefighter Campbell was in great pain and I could see how shook up he was. After we delivered him to the emergency room, we went back into service and headed back to our primary area of response.


.On February 26, 1993, I was working as a Senior Court Officer at the Grand Jury in Queens Supreme Court. At about 12:30 pm, I looked at my pager and noticed a 10-76, A signal for a high rise building fire. It was reported to be a Transformer fire at the World Trade Center. A few minutes later a signal 10-45 was transmitted for severely injured persons at the WTC. A minute later 2nd and 3rd alarms were transmitted very quickly. I continued to look at my pager. It was lunch time, the 4th and 5th alarms were transmitted, A borough call to Brooklyn was transmitted for a 3rd alarm assignment to respond to the fire. I signed out from work and changed out of my uniform. I got into my car and headed for the WTC. It took me about 40 minutes to get to the scene. When I got to the scene I did not notice any fire. There was a very light smoke condition coming out of the parking garage. I took a few photos of people who were being treated for smoke inhalation. A lot of people who worked in the building were being evacuated by firefighters. There were numerous emergency vehicles all over the streets around the WTC. I went inside the lobby of the WTC, I looked around and then left. Across the street, A Police Chopper landed. I was told that they took a pregnant women off the roof of one of the towers. I was still under the impression that it was a transformer fire that knocked out the power for the WTC. It just looked like a huge fire drill. I did not stick around too long, After about 15 minutes, I left the scene and went home. When I got home I put on the TV. I was watching reports live from the scene. The newscasters were now calling it a bombing. If I had know it was a bombing at the time I was at the scene, I probably would not have left the scene so fast and I would have taken a lot more photos at the WTC. 

Happyland Social club fire

On March 25, 1990, At about 4:00am, I was awakened by my scanner announcing that there were 6 10-45's Code 1's at a social club fire in the Bronx. I quickly got dressed and started out for E.Tremont ave & Southern Blvd. While en route the 10-45 count kept growing larger. First the dispatcher announced 12 10-45's then 24 10-45's. When I arrived at the scene the count was up to 50 10-45's. There was no fire or smoke showing, The fire was quickly knocked down. The terrible tragedy began when a jealous boyfriend poured a gallon of gasoline in the doorway of the social club. 87 people were killed. There were no other means to escape other than the front door, which was blocked by fire. A few survivors escaped by jumping through the flames, including the intended victim. The one story Social Club had a stairway that led up to a mezzanine level. Most of the victims were found on the stairway & in the mezzanine. There was no escape! ( A 10-45 is the FDNY radio code for a DOA).Are your customers raving about you on social media? Share their great stories to help turn potential customers into loyal ones.

Fathers day fire and tragedy

It was Fathers Day, June 17, 2001. It rained hard for most of the previous day into mid-morning on Fathers Day. I had my scanner turned off. My wife went shopping. I was home watching my 6 year old daughter. My friend Marty called me to tell me to hurry up! put the scanner on, There is an explosion in Queens, and there are firefighters trapped! I quickly put the radio on and heard the urgent transmission for a third alarm and to have numerous EMS units respond forthwith! I quickly grabbed my camera & video equipment and my 6 year old and drove to the supermarket to find my wife. I left my daughter with my wife and responded to the scene of the explosion and collapse. It took about 15 minutes to respond to Astoria from Bayside, Queens. I parked about 2 blocks away and ran towards the scene. When I arrived the first thing I noticed was a heavy smoke condition coming from a partially collapsed hardware store. It looked like the front of the store was still intact. The left side of the store was collapsed. There were numerous firefighters looking through the rubble for trapped members. Across the street were numerous injured firefighters sitting up against a building. The scene was one of utter chaos. I had heard that 3 firefighters were missing. Firefighters had handlines knocking down and keeping away the fire from firefighters who were searching the rubble. I went around to the front of the hardware store. Firefighters were desperately trying to gain entry into the building. Numerous handlines were operating into the front of the store, trying to knock down the heavy fire condition so firefighters could gain entry. I returned to the collapsed side of the hardware store. Battalion Chief Ray Downey, who was the chief of the Special Operation Command, had just arrived at the scene. Chief Downey had immediately restored order to the chaotic scene. Within minutes firefighters found Harry Ford 50, from Rescue Company 4 and John Downing 40, from Ladder Company 163, burred in the rubble. Desperately, firefighters began to dig them out. At this time Mayor Guiliani and Fire Commissioner Von Essen arrived at the scene. I heard the Commissioner tell the mayor that thing did not look good, there were three members trapped in the rubble. I was behind the mayor & Commissioner when Harry Ford and John Downing were pulled out and rushed out to an awaiting ambulance. Things looked bad as rescuers were performing CPR on Harry Ford, as they rushed him to the ambulance. I went back to the front of the fire building. Firefighters were continuing the desperate search for firefighter Brian Fahey 46, from Rescue Company 4, who was trapped in the basement. Immediately after the explosion and collapse Firefighter Fahey gave a MAYDAY, saying he was trapped somewhere in the basement. Due to the heavy fire conditions and the collapse of the building, and after numerous desperate attempts, firefighters could not reach firefighter Fahey in time. His body was recovered a few hours later.
After watching this tragedy unfolding before my eyes, I could not help feel that this was one of the worst days in the history of the FDNY. I did not think it could be possible for anything as bad as this to ever happen again, but little did we know that 9/11 was less than three months away.

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Hotel St. GEORGE Auguct 24, 1995 Box 461

The Hotel St. George had seen better days. It had once been one of the better hotels in New York. It was built in 1885 with the added Tower section completed in 1929. Over its recent history parts of the hotel were converted to residential use. The 31 story Tower and the Crosshall and Pineapple buildings are now condominiums. The Henry Street building remained a hotel, about half of the 80 residents were homeless or aids patients who were put up by city agencies. The Clark Street building was vacant. The building had been boarded up on the lower floors to prevent vandalism, but it did not stop vandals from entering the building from other places. There were numerous holes in the floors creating numerous voids in the building. The standpipe system had parts removed by vandals who stripped the plumbing and anything of value in the vacant hotel. It was August 1995. The North Eastern part of the country was experiencing a drought. The humidity was very low, the surrounding brush were bone dry creating numerous brush fires. Suffolk County firefighters were fighting numerous record setting brush fires for several days. Numerous mutual aid responded to help out. On August 24th 1995, the FDNY sent 10 Engine companies and 2 chiefs to help out. At 03:31 hours a phone alarm was received reporting smoke in the area of the St. George Hotel. Engine 224, 207, 226 ladder 118, 110 and Battalion 31 responded. When units arrived nothing was showing. While units were searching the area in around the hotel, the 31 Battalion asked the dispatcher for a verification of the phone alarm. Meanwhile roof man firefighter Ed Green Ladder 118 went to the roof of the hotel on Henry Street. Looking down the block firefighter Green could see the glow from a small fire coming out the top floors of the vacant Clark Street building.Firefighter Green immediately radioed to the 31 Battalion of the location of the fire. Battalion Chief David Maxwell ( who was working his last tour prior to his retirement) transmitted a signal 10-75 for a working fire. Units repositioned their rigs and began to remove the boarded up doors and windows at the Clark Street building. Handlines were stretched into the sprinkler system and roll ups were brought into the building. The numerous holes and voids and the bone dry conditions caused the fire to gain enormous headway. The standpipe system was not operational and handlines had to be stretched via the exterior of the building. The fire grew so fast that firefighters were literally chased out of the building. Tower ladders were set up and 2nd, 3rd, 4th alarms were quickly transmitted. It was a warm summer night and a lot people had their windows open. The flames and brands were shooting up over the 31 story tower building. All of the surrounding exposures were threatened. A 5th alarms was transmitted followed by an addition alarm for brand patrol. A 3rd alarm was transmitted for the exposure building on Pineapple Street near the water tower that was burning on the roof. The area around the St George Hotel had narrow Streets with tall buildings. While responding to the fire it looked incredible from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. When I arrived at the scene it was tough to see the fire because of the narrow streets. I could see the flying brands, It was incredible. I went to the roof of the 6 story building across the street from the Clark Street building. The Clark Street building was 9 stories so it was still hard to see the fire. I walked around the perimeter of the block long hotel complex. I could not get a good vantage point for photos. I walked back to Cadman Plaza where there was a huge apartment complex about 31 stories high. I took the elevator up to the top floor and then the stairway to the roof. I remember walking over a man who was sleeping in the stairwell.(Perhaps his wife threw him out of the house) When I opened the door to the roof, WOW, what a view of the fire! The flames and brands were towering over the 31 story Tower building like a fireplace flume. There were numerous fires burning in the exposures which required numerous alarms. There were 7 apartments that were fully involved in the Tower building on 8 different floors, each requiring an all hands assignment of at least 3 engines and 2 ladder companies. In all it took appox. 18 Alarms worth of companies to bring this fire under control.       Gallery coming soon!


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11-10-84- Brooklyn Box 881 Reid Ave & Monroe Street Church Fire

When I worked for EMS in 1977, I was one of the Brooklyn ambulance dispatchers. I worked the Midnight Shift with my friend Marty Bleiwas dispatcher 115, My Number was 751, and then 824. I became friends with Tom Savage, who worked out of Long Island College Hospital units 350, and 351. In 1979 I met Tom in person at a Manhattan 5th Alarm. We became friends. We both liked to photograph fires. Sometime we would meet and sit outside the quarters of Engine 211 and 119 Truck. At that time it was a very busy area. Another friend Stephen Cunningham would also hang out with us. We would sit in one of our cars with the scanner on listening to the FDNY Fire Radio, with Brooklyn in the priority slot. We would shoot the bull on just about every subject, but especially the FDNY. A lot of times we would sit there for hours. There was a lot of action going on in that area at that time. More often than not we would catch a Job.
One night, on November 10th 1984, Tom and I were sitting outside the quarters of Engine 211 and Ladder 119 in the Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn. We responded to an All-Hands fire on Greene ave & Classon Ave for a fire in a store. We got there in about 4 minutes. The fire was mostly out. While there we heard over the scanner of an engine company responding to a 2nd Alarm at Reid ave & Monroe Street. With the members of Rescue Company 2 running to their rig, we started out for the fire. We were about 15 blocks away from the fire. We got there super quick. Upon our arrival we saw a fully involved fire throughout a large church. We both got out and started to take photos. The Fire went to 3 Alarms plus. Later a dispatcher told me that a 4th alarm was suppossed to be transmitted, but for some reason it never made it to communications. The fire burned through the roof and eventually was brought under control. I went back the next morning to look at and photograph the aftermath of the fire. The Church was totally destroyed and was eventually rebuilt. The fire was on the eve of the 125th anniversary of the Janes United Methodist Church.

Spectacular Church Fire on November 10,1984 
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Spectacular Church Fire on November 10,1984 Click photo to see Gallery

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June 5th,1998 77-55-2044 Atlantic Ave & HINSDALE STREET 5th Alarm

Two Firefighters were killed and more than 6 injured, When a stairway collapsed and sent firefighters into the fire.

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 mFind out more

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