Firefighter First Class Peter Demontreux of the Fire Department of New York, Ladder 132 (Brooklyn) was presented with the Ray Downey Courage and Valor (C&A)
Award at Wednesday’s Opening Ceremony and General Session at FDIC 2011
“Firefighter Demontreux’s conspicuous recorded act of bravery under life-threatening conditions resulted in saving the lives of two men whom, without his intervention, would have succumbed to a tragic fate,” said Robert F. Biolchini, executive officer of PennWell Corporation, the parent company of Fire Engineering and FDIC, as he introduced the C&A award winner. Also participating in the presentation were Joseph and Chuck Downey, sons of Ray Downey and members of FDNY. Rosalie Downey, the wife of Ray Downey, was also present.
“The Courage and Valor Foundation’s mission is to help honor an individual firefighter whose actions reached extraordinary heights,” noted Biolchini. “The Courage and Valor Foundation and this perpetual endowment will assist the American Fire Service in continuing to recognize Chief Downey and those firefighters whose bravery and actions in the face of certain harm mirror his.” Ray Downey was a battalion chief in FDNY and was killed in the line of duty in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. He was prominent in the federal urban search and rescue program and had received numerous citations and awards He had personified fire service courage and valor throughout his life.
Firefighter Demontreux was cited for performing his duty gallantly under adverse and dangerous life-threatening conditions by remaining calm and focused even as he, himself, was being exposed to extremely high temperatures and, at some points, direct flame.
The Incident Scenario
In the early morning hours of August 30, 2010, FDNY’s Ladder 132 received a phone alarm reporting a structure fire at 175 Putnam Ave. in Brooklyn. While en route, Ladder 132 received several reports of multiple people trapped throughout the building. Engine 235 arrived first and transmitted a 10-75 for a fire in a four-story brownstone. Ladder 132 personnel arrived as the first-due truck and were met with heavy fire at the front door in the hallway and up the stairway to the third floor, preventing their entry until a hoseline could be put in place.
As Ladder 132's inside team waited on the front steps for a hoseline, other members of Ladder 132 were setting up the aerial for a rescue of a man who was at the front window of the third floor with heavy smoke pushing out all around him. Demontreux climbed the aerial and pulled Mr. Howell from the window. Demontreux was told by Mr. Howell that his friend was still inside the burning apartment.
With Ladder 132’s inside team still waiting for a hoseline and unable to enter the stairwell, Demontreux entered the third-floor window from the aerial and began his search. Demontreux was able to search the front room but was forced to retreat to the window because of the high-heat condition and zero visibility. Firefighter Myers of Rescue 2, on the aerial ladder, then vented the windows in the front of the apartment to allow some of the blistering heat and smoke to escape. This allowed Demontreux to resume his search. With conditions improved slightly, he was able to make his way to the rear of the apartment.
When Demontreux reached the rear, he discovered Mr. Mantony hanging out a rear window to escape the heat. Realizing that there were no fire escapes or portable ladders in the rear, Demontreux, without regard for his own safety, determined that the only way out was the window through which he entered. Through the high heat and zero visibility, Demontreux led Mantony back toward the front window. When they were halfway through the apartment, the entire third floor exploded into flames, engulfing both men and setting them ablaze. Myers, still on the aerial at the window, immediately transmitted a Mayday, believing that Demontreux and the victim could be lost in the explosion of fire.
Demonstrating incredible bravery and selflessness, Demontreux, now on fire himself, made the conscious and calculated decision that he would not leave Mantony behind. Although he now found himself in a fully involved room and at extreme personal risk, he stayed with Mantony and continued to assist him to the window and the aerial device for an escape. When they reached that window, Demontreux again displayed incredible selflessness and bravery by resisting the urge to save himself first. Ignoring his immediate personal danger, intense heat, and extreme personal risk, he pushed Mantony out of the window onto Ladder 132’s waiting aerial ladder before diving out of the window onto the ladder himself.
Firefighters from Engine 219 were in the street below with a charged hoseline. Seeing Demontreux and Mantony, on fire, exiting onto the ladder, they opened their handline on the two men in an attempt to extinguish the flames. Firefighters on Ladder 132 assisted Demontreux and Mantony down the ladder to waiting medical assistance. Mantony received burns over 50 percent of his body and continues with long-term hospitalization. Demontreux suffered first- and second-degree burns to his face and back. Upon inspection, all of his personal protective equipment was condemned for the extreme amount of fire damage it sustained in the rescue.
On presenting the C&A medal and a check for $35,000 to Demontreux, Biolchini said, “Firefighter Demontreux demonstrated unfaltering focus while being engulfed in punishing flashover conditions and remained committed to saving the life of Mr. Mantony …. Firefighter Demontreux’s actions reflect on the fire service’s true values. So today we recognize him individually but, in a greater sense, his actions are a mirror of the outstanding actions all of you are facing and performing each day when you are called.”
Ray Siarnicki, director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, and Ron Kanterman, president of the National Fire Academy Alumni Association, were also present on stage during the ceremony. Their associations assist in the C&A award selection process.
Peter Demontreux has been a firefighter with the FDNY for nine years. His brother, Lt. Louis Demontreux, is also a member of FDNY. Peter and his wife Gina have four children: Peter Jr., Allison, Evelyn, and Gwyneth.