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Queens Chronicle

FDNY honors Queens heroes on Medal Day

Commissioner and mayor celebrate the bravest of New York’s Bravest

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:18 pm, Thu Jun 20, 2019.

The FDNY on June 5 honored 18 of its members who are either assigned to or live in Queens at its annual Medal Day ceremony. All information in this story was provided by the FDNY.

‘Performed as a veteran’

Probationary Firefighter David Guszick of Bayside responded to a report of a fire in a 14-story apartment building on Jan. 28, 2018 with Ladder Co. 28 in Manhattan. Receiving reports of heavy smoke coming from a fourth-floor apartment, the group, led by Lt. Jacob Vormittag, found the apartment and forced open the door, only to be greeted by high heat and thick smoke. Guszick attempted to keep the fire at bay. With the fire worsening and still no hose line in place, he was ordered to do an interior search of the apartment. He found a man wedged between a bed and a wall. He shielded the victim, who did not survive from the heat as he and firefighter Stephen Hayes dragged the man from the apartment. Guszick was awarded the Thomas A. Wylie Medal for distinguished service by a “probie.” Wylie, a Queens resident, was a firefighter three months when killed in the line of duty in 1994.No time for gear

Ladder Co. 142 in Ozone Park was returning from a call on Feb. 6, 2018 when they got a call for a child who had fallen through the ice on Strack Pond in Forest Park. Upon arrival firefighters Robert McGuire, who is now a lieutenant, and Kurtis Niemczyk ran more than a quarter mile through a wooded area, following the screams of the boy’s mother while carrying rescue gear.

Deciding there was no time to don their exposure suits, the two stripped to their T-shirts and shorts and plunged into the water wearing life vests, with McGuire and then Niemczyk chopping 30 yards through the ice with their fists and forearms. They then spotted the boy 30 feet away. Firefighters on land pulled all three back by ropes. The child, who had gone on the ice to rescue a friend who was able to save himself, died. McGuire, a Howard Beach resident, received the Edith B. Goldman Medal. Niemczyk received the Police Honor Legion Medal.

Skills and compassion

Paramedics Usman Rahyab of Flushing and Jonathan Rivera were dispatched on Feb. 7, 2018 to the site in the Bronx where an Amtrak train had run over a man’s legs.

The man’s location required the paramedics to traverse down a steep embankment that was accessed by an uneven path that was flooded on some parts and frozen in others. They were informed by Amtrak personnel that the tracks they would cross were carrying live electricity and that trains were still operating. They stopped the bleeding, and prepared him for transport. They also monitored and treated him on the way to the hospital. Rahyab and Rivera received the Jack Pintchik Medal for EMS personnel.

Trapped in the attic

It was not quite 7 a.m. on April 8, 2018 when members of Ladder Co. 142 arrived at a burning three-story house to grim news — people were trapped in an attic apartment that had no second way out.

Lt. Glenn Harris and his team of William Schecher and Andrew Mussler made their way to the second floor and to the door to the attic, which had already begun to burn. Harris went up the stairs to search, finding a semiconscious man. Mussler took the victim down to the first floor; he did so again as Harris found a second victim. Going in deeper Harris found two more who had made their way to a small window and firefighters. Harris received the John H. Prentice Medal for an act of intelligent bravery. Mussler received the American Legion Fire Department Post 930/Mark M. Wohlfeld Memorial Medal.

Plan B

Firefighters had just finished a perimeter search of a house fire in the Rockaways in the early morning hours of April 16, 2018, when he was approached by a civilian telling him that an elderly woman in a second-floor apartment might still be inside.

Firefighter Bernd Woebbe, a member of Ladder Co. 134 and a Breezy Point resident, brought a ladder; he fought winds and heavy rain to get the ladder in position.

Going in the window, Woebbe was hit with heat, smoke and a heavily cluttered room. Finding the woman, he dragged her into the hall, only to have their escape cut off by heavy fire. Retreating back to the bedroom, Woebbe passed the woman to FF Carl Kretkowsi, who carried her down the ladder as weather conditions worsened. The woman died at a nearby hospital. Woebbe was awarded the Albert S. Johnston Medal.

Punishing conditions

Firefighter David Burkhart, a Queens resident and a member of Ladder Co. 2 in Manhattan, responded to an explosion in the basement of a parking garage on the afternoon of April 20, 2018.

After checking the roof, Burkhart had returned to the street when one of his officers radioed that their search was hampered by excessive clutter and punishing conditions. Teaming with FF Scott Hickey of Ladder Co. 4, he got to the basement from a street-level door.

After forcing open a fortified door at the bottom of the basement steps, the two had zero visibility and no hose lines as they worked their way through pedicabs, bicycle frames, storage racks and other dangerous items. Burkhart found an unconscious man, whom he and Hickey dragged up two flights of stirs to the street. He was awarded the Chief John J. McElligott Medal/FFs Fitzpatrick and Frisby Award.

Zero visibility

It was just before midnight on April 28, 2018, when Ladder Co. 162 responded to a house fire in Queens Village, a 2 1/2 story wood-frame home where fire engulfing the first floor already was extending to the house next door. Firefighters John Basquez III and Gilberto Martinez III realized their only possibly safe way of entry was a large second-floor window accessible only by placing a ladder against a shoddily built awning.

Inching themselves along the metal frame of the awning, the firefighters found themselves in a bathroom where fire already was burning through the top of the door.

Crawling into the hallway with zero visibility, they came upon an unconscious woman, whom they dragged down the hall and brought out through the bathroom window. Going back in they found a man, also laying in the hallway. They were greeted at the window by Ladder 165, who took the man away. The woman did not survive.

Basquez was awarded the Columbia Association Medal; and Martinez, a Hollis resident, the Thomas E. Crimmins Medal.

Missing child

On May 11, 2018, members of Ladder Co. 154 in Jackson Heights knew before they arrived at a house fire that residents were trapped on an upper floor.

Firefighter Akira Rodriguez, part of a three-man entry team, was conducting a blind search that took him down a hallway to a rear bedroom where he found a frantic man whose escape had been cut off — and who told Rodriguez that he could not find his daughter. Rodriguez assisted him to rear balcony where he was handed off to Firefighter Thomas Peters. Turning back inside, he resumed an aggressive search for the child, eventually finding her unconscious in another bedroom. The girl was revived outside. Both victims survived. Rodriguez received the Emerald Society Pipes and Drums Medal.

Long, dark hallway

Two victims died in a fire in Brooklyn on Aug. 17, 2018. The FDNY says two others did not thanks to Lt. Thomas Daly of Bayside.

A member of Rescue Co. 2, Daly responded to a fire in a four-story apartment building. Daly and two firefighters made their way to the second floor and forced their way into the apartment where the main fire was, and proceeded in total darkness down a 27-foot hallway. The trio split up to conduct a search. Daly found no one, but across the hall Firefighter Edward Dailey radioed that he had fund an unconscious woman. While reaching Dailey, Lt. Daly found an unconscious man. He and another firefighter got the man out to the hallway before Daly dragged him out of the apartment. He returned to assist with another rescue. Daly was awarded the Shelly Rothman Memorial Medal for valor.

No water, one exit

The last place that remained to be searched in a burning Jamaica house on Aug. 18, 2018, was the basement. With the steps from the first floor burned away, the outdoor steps would be the only way Ladder Co. 127 could get into the basement — or get out.

Firefighters Matthew Madison and William Van Leer advanced farther and farther into the basement as conditions worsened, their captain calling urgently for a hose line. Entering a bedroom at the front of the building, and the farthest from the cellar steps. Madison found a man wedged between a bed and a couch. Van Leer helped free the man from the debris before they got him to medical help. Madison was awarded the Dr. J.W. Goldenkranz Medal.

Saved at sea

NYPD Paramedic Hwajung Yoon, an East Elmhurst resident, was assigned to cruise ship escort detail on Sept. 5, 2018 along with Lt. Paul Ardizzone and Paramedic Juan Henriquez. They were forced into action when the ship, Carnival Horizon, reported a cardiac emergency on board.

Boarding the ship from an NYPD Harbor unit while both were in motion, the three treated the man for cardiac symptoms and secured him for transport back to the NYPD vessel, which brought him to medical assistance waiting ashore. All three were awarded the Tracey Allen-Lee Medal.

What more could go wrong?

Capt. Brian Gill of Middle Village was detailed to Ladder Co. 47 in the Bronx omnSept. 25, 2018 when they responded to a fire on the 12th floor of a 13-floor apartment building. Gill and the two firefighters on his forcible entry team learned that water would be delayed; then that high winds had built up outside. Upon arriving at the fire apartment, smoke was forcing its way around the door, indicating the possibility of the blowtorch effect once the door was opened to reach those inside.

Opening the door merely filled the hall with smoke, and one victim was located immediately and moved to the stairwell. Gill crawled deep into the apartment before finding a disoriented man who began fighting him as he dragged the victim out into the hallway. The man told Gill his wife and baby were still inside. Heading back in Gill encountered Capt. Harry Poole Jr. of Engine 64, who had found the woman. The “baby” was a teenage boy, who also was rescued. Gill received the Uniformed Fire Officers Association Medal.

Escape cut off

The men of Ladder Co. 155 in Jamaica knew they would be tackling a house fire without support from their normal engine company. Flames had forced their entry team to retreat from the main entrance on the first floor when they noticed a man on the second floor.

Firefighter Mark Ackerman forced open a rear door and groped his way to the stairs while searching for more victims. Crawling through the second floor, he found a semiconscious man who began resisting him.

He dragged the man to the staircase only to find it fully engulfed in flames. As conditions worsened, he dragged the man toward a rear window, following the calls of a firefighter on an outside ladder. Ackerman received the Steuben Association Medal.

Nowhere to hide

A fire in a Manhattan apartment building on Nov. 17, 2017 burned for 18 hours, left 40 families homeless and injured seven firefighters. Fire Marshal Richard Faraci Jr., a Queens resident, was tasked with investigating.

Using video footage to track residents before and after the fire, they found a man entering the building with a can of gasoline.

He subsequently set his own apartment alight and fled, warning no one of the fire.

Teaming with Fire Marshal Mark Colicci, Faraci found the man had purchased a bus ticket to North Carolina. He subsequently was arrested in California. Faraci and Colicci were given the Deputy Commissioner Christine R. Godek Medal.

Deep search

Lt. Ryan McNamara of Ladder Co. 20 in Manhattan was detailed to search above the fire floor in an apartment house fire in Manhattan on Dec. 19, 2018. The Rockaway Beach resident and his team forced open the door in the apartment above the fire to conduct a search as conditions in the building deteriorated.

Hearing that the fire had climbed to the next apartment, McNamara’s team slowly and steadily pressed deeper into the apartment when the found a half conscious woman.

Retracing their route after removing her they came upon a second woman, whom they also rescued. Both women survived. McNamara received the Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia Medal.

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