Holyoke Firefighter Recalls Iconic Photograph

It was a split-second rescue that has lived on, frozen in time by the late photographer James “Ziggy” Sears: a child dangles five stories above the ground as a firefighter, perched atop a ladder, clutches the boy by his ankle. Thick smoke surrounds them, pouring from an invisible building only inches away, reports masslive.com.

The firefighter in the photograph is Christopher J. Reynolds, who retired from the Holyoke Fire Department earlier this year as a deputy chief. At the time of the fire, on Nov. 10, 1992, he was a 37-year-old lieutenant.

Sears, a long-time photographer for the Holyoke Transcript-Telegram and The Republican, died Oct. 18 at the age of 83.

The 1992 fire at 349 Chestnut St. killed three children from a single family. Reynolds, along with firefighters Francis “Ricky” Knightly and Thomas Dziok, were credited with saving two other siblings: the boy in the photograph, 22-month-old Luis Arnaldo Lopez, and his brother, 12-year-old Edwin Delvalle, who is barely visible in the frame as he lays on the ladder under Reynolds.

“It happened so fast, I didn’t even remember too much of it,” Reynolds said in an interview Thursday, when asked to share his memories of the photograph.

The fire broke out around 7 a.m. Reynolds was a member of the arson squad at the time, and stayed at the scene into the afternoon as his unit investigated the fire’s cause — eventually determined to be a child in a first-floor apartment who set a mattress ablaze while playing with cigarette lighters, the flames spurred on by a seven-year-old sister who used a can of hairspray in a failed attempt to put out the fire.

By the time Reynolds returned to the station, the day’s edition of the Hoyoke Transcript-Telegram had hit the streets.

Reynolds said he remembers seeing himself on the front page of the newspaper that day and thinking, “Christ, when did that happen?” Later, he added: “I didn’t even know it happened. I’m telling you, when I saw the paper, I was shocked. I really was.”

The rescue came after Dziok, working on the ground, guided the aerial ladder to a window where the children were spotted. Reynolds went up the rungs first, with Knightly following.

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