On April 1, 2013, FDNY Captain Robert Reinhardt led a team of men crawling through a dark, fully engulfed building in search of a staircase, while outside Firefighter Louis Nicolosi and others were crashing through a locked six-foot-high gate while carrying extension ladders.
Their common hope — to outrace a fire to four people trapped in a Fresh Meadows apartment building.
Reinhardt, Nicolosi and five other firefighters from Queens were among 65 honored by the FDNY on June 4 at the department’s annual Medal Day in Manhattan.
All citations, provided by the Fire Department, were for acts performed in 2013.
Capt. Robert Forde, assigned to Ladder Co. 121 in the Rockaways, received the Fire Marshals Benevolent Association Medal for his attempt to rescue an unconscious man from a burning wood frame house on Jan. 16.
Firefighters were told upon arrival that a man was trapped. Seeing flames and heavy smoke coming from the second floor, Forde led a forced entry unit into the house.
Upon reaching the second floor, Forde and his men encountered flames breaking out into the hallway from a fully engulfed bedroom.
They also heard on their radios that heavy debris was blocking access to the nearby fire hydrant, and that water would be delayed. Forde then gave his portable water extinguisher to Firefighter Brian Dessart, who knocked the fire back so Forde could crawl past and into the room.
Forde found an unconscious man on the floor of a rear bathroom, wedged between a wall and a bathroom fixture. He summoned Dessart and they were able to free the man before pulling him out without the cover of a hose line through an escape route quickly being cut off by flames. The victim later died.
Capt. Paul Miller, who rescued an unconscious elderly Glendale man from a fire in his apartment on Jan. 25, received the Uniformed Fire Officers Association Medal.
Miller, temporarily detailed to Engine Co. 286, was told by building residents that their father was trapped on the second floor, already engulfed in flames and smoke. They also told him that there were potentially explosive oxygen tanks inside.
Leading a team upstairs, Miller entered a fully-engulfed room when he got more bad news — the 10-degree temperature had left the nearby hydrant frozen.
Crawling through high heat and zero visibility without water, Miller found the man prone on his couch. He shielded the man from flames as he retreated to the apartment door and handed him off to the firefighters who got him out to EMS personnel.
Capt. Frederick Fuchs of Engine Co. 306 in Bayside rescued an elderly man from his burning home on March 11, earning the Battalion Chief Frank Tuttlemondo Medal.
Engine 306 was met by the homeowner who said his father had set a bedroom on fire.
Fuchs forced open the second-story bedroom door and encountered a free-burning blaze. He eventually found the man wedged between a wall and a toilet in a rear bathroom. He and Firefighter Stephen Buonavita, finding their escape route cut off, pulled the man into a temporarily safe part of the room until a nozzle team attacked the fire.
Reinhardt, of Ladder Co. 152, led the search and rescue effort, working his way to the second-floor apartment. His group used a hand fire extinguisher before hose lines were set up. Nicolosi’s group could see fire and panicked civilians in the window as they approached.
Upon reaching the victims, Reinhardt shielded a young boy until members of Engine Co. 299 could gain the upper hand over the flames. Nicolosi came in through the window and immediately passed a child to Firefighter Noel Curry on the ladder. Curry then entered and helped Nicolosi evacuate a girl via the window.
They were preparing to move an unconscious man down the ladder when 299 gave them enough of a gap to exit through the building. Nicolosi received the Holy Name Society Medal. Reinhardt was awarded the M. J. Delehanty Medal.
Lt. George Torres of Rescue Co. 4 in Elmhurst received the Hispanic Society Memorial Medal for his role in rescuing a man in the basement of a building as an uncontrolled fire raged around them.
The building was located near the Elmhurst-Jackson Heights border, and it eventually was determined that the source of the blaze was in the basement.
With fire engulfing both staircases into the basement, Torres and his colleagues began to bring hoses down, only to be confronted at the bottom of the steps with a maze of rooms that had been converted into single-room occupancy apartments, some of them locked.
They then heard via radio that one resident was unaccounted for, and presumably in the basement. During his search, Torres found a man face down in water.
Torres, attempting to remove the man, injured his back and was unable to move him further. Other firefighters arrived quickly and brought the victim out. He initiated CPR on the victim, who survived. Torres was hospitalized for his injuries.
Less than one month later, Firefighter Edwin Sanchez, also of Rescue Co. 4, would crawl through a fully-engulfed first floor of a wood frame house to locate a woman trapped inside.
The fire initially blocked entry by the front door, and at two separate windows. Once inside with Firefighter Rod Ford, Sanchez advanced about 25 feet, beyond the protection of hoses from Engine Co. 292. They found an unconscious woman by a staircase. Sanchez began moving her while Ford searched for more victims.
Sanchez was joined by firefighter Joseph Matz of Ladder Co. 154, and together, crawling on their stomachs, they got her out. He and members of Engine Co. 289 attempted to resuscitate her. She would later die at a nearby hospital.
Sanchez was presented with the Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia Medal.