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Queens Chronicle

Borough’s Bravest lauded by the FDNY

Fire, EMT personnel honored by the city for lifesaving heroism

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Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:04 am, Thu Jul 18, 2013.

Nine members of the FDNY were recognized for extraordinary service in Queens last month at the annual Medal Day ceremony hosted by the department at the 69th Infantry Regiment Armory in Manhattan.

Medals were awarded for rescues from fire, water and dizzying heights. Details from the award citations were obtained from the FDNY’s website.

Firefighter John Friedrich of Squad 288 in Maspeth received the Arthur J. Laufer Memorial Medal for the rescue of two workers trapped on a scaffold on Nov. 19 of last year.

The workers were at the old Con Edison building in Astoria, 120 feet above the ground and 80 feet below the roof on a side of the building with no windows.

With Tower Truck 117’s 95-foot ladder falling nearly 30 feet short, Friedrich was lowered down to the two men, battling steady winds and jagged pieces of metal sheeting that had come off the side of the building.

Friedrich, also encountering a language barrier, placed both men in harnesses and guided their ropes as well as his own as they were pulled to safety by Squad 288. He was the last man to leave the damaged scaffold.

Firefighter Brian Levings of Engine Company 265 received the Firefighter David DeFranco Medal, given for water-related rescues, for actions he took last Sept. 8, the day a tornado hit the Rockaways and the weather made for treacherous surf on the peninsula’s Atlantic Ocean coastline.

As Engine 265 arrived at Beach 36th Street and the boardwalk, Levings, a certified lifeguard and a strong swimmer, grabbed a flotation device for himself and the man reported in the water, whom he saw floating in the surf about 150 yards from shore with no water rescue unit on site.

Levings pulled the motionless, 220-pound man back through “a hurricane surf,” where his crewmates were battling a powerful undertow in waist-deep water.

Engine 265 personnel also rescued the swimmer that the victim had gone into the water to save.

Emergency Medical Technicians Marilyn Arroyo and Jimmy Guailacela from Station 46 in Elmhurst received the Christopher J. Prescott Medal for their rescue of three senior citizens from a car caught in a flash flood on the Cooper Avenue Underpass in Glendale last Aug. 15.

It is awarded to EMTs or paramedics for service above and beyond the call of duty.

With the car steadily filling with water, Guailacela, an avid swimmer, pulled the first victim to safety and then came back for a second one, whom Arroyo, an admittedly poor swimmer, had pulled through the car’s sun roof. Arroyo then pulled out the third victim and began swimming back with her before Guailacela returned to take her to safety. Arroyo had to unhook her utility belt, which became snagged in the now-submerged car before climbing a fence to safety.

The FDNY citation states that Arroyo is the second woman to ever receive the Prescott Medal.

Paramedics Keith Ahrens and Jason Verspoor of Station 47 in the Rockaways were “in unfamiliar territory” on May 26, 2012, when they were reassigned to Howard Beach. Their citation said they were even less familiar with the swampland near the Addabbo Bridge and Jamaica Bay when they received a call that evening of a 10-year-old boy with his legs stuck in a hole.

Pinpointing the boy’s cell phone to a site near Spring Creek Park, Ahrens and Verspoor began searching through thick brush and tall weeds before they heard a faint call for help.

With fog and the impending high tide, firefighters and police officers combed the area before Verspoor and Ahrens found the child shivering in waist-deep mud. Summoning help they got the boy out and carried him more than a quarter mile to an ambulance.

They were awarded the Jack Pintchik Medal for EMS personnel.

Lt. Jason Ronayne, recipient of the Steuben Association Medal, was on temporary detail with Engine Co. 324 in the early-morning hours of Dec. 11, 2011 when a call came in for a fire in Corona in a seven-story apartment building.

Upon arrival, Ronayne was told by a screaming woman that her elderly uncle who lived on the second floor had not made it out.

Entering the building without cover from a hose line, Ronayne entered the fully-engulfed apartment and eventually found the unconscious man in his living room, suffering from second- and third-degree burns. He was not breathing when Ronayne handed him off to an arriving ladder company, but did survive.

Lt. John Crimi of Engine Co. 273 received the Uniformed Fire Officers Association Medal for rescuing an elderly couple from a burning fourth-floor apartment in Flushing on Nov. 12, 2011, after discovering his unit would be alone “for a substantial period of time” until ladder companies better trained and equipped for search and rescue operations could be summoned.

Crimi was credited with pushing his way into the apartment and pulling a choking man from the apartment to the temporary safety of a stairwell before going back to pull an elderly woman from the burning bedroom, shielding her from the fire with his body. He subsequently supervised fire suppression after the victims were taken for medical attention.

The department said Crimi showed “the initiative, leadership and bravery to aggressively perform the duties normally assigned to others ... as well as his own, which resulted in the rescue of two civilians.”

Fire Marshal Martin McHale, who died of a heart attack last Christmas Eve at age 50, was honored posthumously for an investigation in 2011 that resulted in two arson arrests after the fire department narrowly averted a disaster in a Richmond Hill apartment building.

McHale’s family accepted the Deputy Commissioner Christine R. Godek Medal, awarded for exemplary investigative work with the Bureau of Fire Investigation.

He received the honor for work connected to a fire in a Liberty Avenue apartment building in Richmond Hill on July 23, 2011.

Firefighters had to rescue a trapped family just after 2:30 a.m. after someone kicked in their door and started the fire.

Through both forensic techniques and the cultivation of sources and witnesses, McHale identified two people who had been involved in a street dispute shortly before the fire was set, and the make and model of the car that one drove.

Both suspects were arrested after surveillance at their homes was sewt up, the second one weeks later after he had left the country and returned.

A Queens grand jury handed up indictments for charges that included attempted murder, arson and reckless endangerment.

The department last month praised McHale for his diligence securing the arrest and indictment of the suspects.

“Throughout the course of this investigation, Fire Marshal McHale — committed to excellence — demonstrated the resourcefulness and skill found only in the most knowledgeable investigators.”

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