FDNY Legend Jim Ellson Sr. Passes Away

By Jack J. Murphy

Photos by Tony Greco

It is with deep regrets to inform you that we lost a man for the ages with the passing of Jim “Lord Jim” Ellson, Sr. He lost his battle to cancer.  He gave more to his family, his fellow firefighters, and to the many friends he made along the way than to his own personal self.

Jim’s stellar fire service career began in 1960, where as a probie he responded to his first of many numerous major incidents, when two planes collided over the city (12/16/60) with one plane crashing in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn and the other coming down in Staten Island. Within three days after this mid-air collision, he was battling a major fire on the USS Constellation aircraft carrier that killed 50 workers. The ship was under construction in the Brooklyn Naval Yard.

Some fire and OEM career highlights:

  • FDNY
    • Firefighter/E65 & L102
    • Lieut./L124. It was here at L124 that he got the nickname, “Lord Jim” while serving as a fellow officer along with Peter Ganci. Pete later became the Chief of Department.
    • Lieut./R-1
    • Captain/Squad-1
    • SOC Executive Officer to Deputy Chief Ray Downey
    • USAR/Task Force-1 Team Leader
    • Deputy Commissioner in the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management
  • Instructor:
    • FDNY fire academy
    • John Jay College fire science and emergency management programs
    • Guest lecturer at many state and national forums
      • Fire Safety Directors Association (NYC)/Board Member
      • FDIC Education Team (1997-2005)
  • NYS/DHS, his last gig working logistics for Superstorm Sandy.

Throughout his career, the vast response experiences from 1960 to September 11th and beyond has served as a broad knowledge base that he would share in a more perfect union of fire and emergency management expertise.

Despite being cited for many Department Service Rating Medals and Unit Citations for bravery, his humbling demeanor spoke volumes as to his character, never seeking any accolades, but always applauding firefighters who were acting as one.

Here is an example of his character, last year he received an EZPass late notice bill for passing through a toll booth on the New Jersey Turnpike, the vehicle license plate read, “Tonka Truck.”  While Jim sold his car more than 25 years ago with this plate, he passed the old plate along to his former company, L124.  Rather than contest the EZPass as to the type of vehicle photographed on camera, Jim paid the fine of $50.00 over a challenge to pay a 90 cents toll fee.

His is the best friend that one could ever have in his/her life.  In one of the many conversations we have had over the years, he once told me a quote from Fr. Mychal Judge “That no matter how hard it gets, God has a plan for you”

Mychal’s Prayer

Lord, take me where you want me to go;
Let me meet who you want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say,
Keep me out of Your Way.

When Jim arrived at the Gates of Heaven today, St. Peter needed to put crowd control management plan in place.

He will remain a ‘Beacon of Light’ in our hearts with all he has shared with us.  God Speed, Brother Jim.


Wake is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at Fredericks Funeral home in Flushing, Queens .

192-15 Northern Blvd at 182nd Street.

The phone number is 718-357-6100.

Funeral Mass is scheduled for Thursday, Church (TBA)

JACK J. MURPHY, MA, is a principal of Jack J. Murphy (JJM) & Associates, LLC, consulting in fire and life safety practices. He was the director of life safety for Webvan Group in Foster City, California (2000-2001); vice-president-corporate global life safety for Citigroup in New York City (1996-2000); and fire safety director for The New York Hospital/Cornell University Medical Center in New York City (1987-1996). He is an adjunct lecturer for Kean University in New Jersey, the NJ Division of Fire Safety, and the City University of New York-John Jay College of Criminal Justice Fire Science Program. He is the author of RICS/Rapid Incident Command System (Fire Engineering, 1998) and the Pre-Incident Planning chapter in Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II. He was the recipient of the Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement award in 2012.

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