By Derek Rosenfeld
After an eventful and inspiring opening session that kicked off the day’s activities, a nearly full house filed into Indianapolis Convention Center Room 123-124 to hear the harrowing account of the events of January 23, 2005, the day six Fire Department of New York (FDNY) firefighters were forced to bail out of a fourth-story window during a Bronx, New York, tenement fire, leading to the deaths of three of them.
Told by FDNY Firefighter Eugene Stolowski, himself suffering near-fatal injuries in the incident including a broken neck, it is a tale that left all in attendence riveted, horrified, and ultimately wiser for having heard it.
Firefighter John Bellew and Lieutenant Curtis Meyran died from the injuries sustained in their falls. A few hours later, Firefighter Richard Sclafani died while fighting a fire in Brooklyn.
In 2011, Firefighter Joseph DiBernardo died from ingesting too much of the prescription medication given to him to help cope with the physical and mental anguish he sustatined from the incident.
“Everyone in the fire service should hear my presentation to realize how fast conditions can change, to know the importance of personal safety systems, and how illegal occupancies change our operations and fire conditions.”
Here, Stolowski details what happens when, with the illegal dwelling fire in full swing, Brendan Cawley’s and Meyran’s alert systems go off:
The first Mayday is called, and the firefighters begin bailing out of the window, which leads to Meyran’s death:
Stolowski continues, talking about the specific injuries the surviving firefighters sustained from their falls, including his own:
Stolowski continues on his and his fellow firefighters’ injuries, and details the horrific postfire trauma suffered by Firefighter Jeffery Cool, which put him in a coma for two weeks: