Last month, we began covering an amazing rescue and close call by FDNY Firefighter Peter Demontreux. As is evident by his actions and the end result of this fire, in addition to his high level of training (as provided both initially and ongoing by the FDNY), there are numerous...
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He could feel his bunker coat catch fire, which FDNY officials said happens rarely.
“I was pulling him....We tripped up once,” he recalled. “I had a good lock on his arm. I wanted to get out of there – and he was coming with me.
“We ran across the room in one motion. I could feel the burns, I could feel my face burning – it feels like people are sticking you with needles.
“But he was in worse shape.”
They got to the front window, and Demontreux threw Matheny onto the aerial ladder. Firefighters brought Matheny down and rushed him to an ambulance – and they also put water on Demontreux.
“The FDNY safety people said the stitch that holds the sleeve where it meets the vest popped from the heat,” said Demontreux, explaining how his coat melted. “They tested my gear, and the coat was up to 1,000 degrees.”
Nine people were injured in the fire, which is still under investigation.
Demontreux was treated at the burn center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell for first-degree burns on his face and second-degree burns behind his left shoulder.
He returned weekly for treatment until early October, when he went back to work at the firehouse.
Matheny is still in the burn center.
“I went to see him and I didn’t know what to expect,” Demontreux said. “He was unconscious. They had just taken a breathing tube out.
“I took a look. I saw his face; he looked relatively good. I feel bad for him.”
Demontreux said he would like to visit Matheny sometime, if he was agreeable.
Born and raised on Staten Island, Demontreux and his wife, Gina, a teacher, are parents of four kids all under the age of 5.
He took all the civil service tests (for the fire department) when he was 17 years old, then got a bachelor’s degree in business at the College of Staten Island before joining the FDNY. He spent five years in Engine 248 before coming to Ladder 132.
Demontreux said he went back to the scene of the fire weeks later.
“I can’t believe me and this guy fit through the narrow kitchen....Thank God there was a clear shot to the window.”
Concluding comments by Chief Goldfeder:
The bunker gear did its job. So did Firefighter Demontreux (who was assigned as the “OV,” or “outside vent,” firefighter at this fire), along with all the other FDNY members operating at that fire. It should be noted that other firefighters, including members of Rescue Company 2, also performed heroically at this fire, using a life-saving rope to rescue a man from the third floor of the building. Firefighter Charlie Dodenhoff used the rope to pull a man out of a third-floor window. In all, four firefighters were injured in the fire, with Firefighter Demontreux suffering burns on his face and back.
While our focus this month is the outstanding and heroic efforts of Firefighter Demontreux and the fact that his actions were supported by his high levels of training, his proper use of his bunker gear along with how serious his department is when specifying and ordering any equipment their members use, this fire also comes at a time unseen by most firefighters and fire officers reading this column.
The current economic situation is forcing the fire service to take a beating like never before. When the public is personally doing fine, they don’t pay much attention to what is going on around them. But due to the economy, everyone is worried about their own jobs, their income, their future – and they look at “who has” when they don’t. They are now asking questions, lots of questions, about what local government is doing with their tax dollars and we, when not prepared, can be easy, yet sometimes unfair, targets. If there’s ever been a time for fire departments to really show their value to their communities and to market themselves, it is now. Most people do not understand what we do, why we do it, why we work different shifts, why we have down time, why some are career, why some are volunteer, why we send an engine company to someone who is choking, why we have SUVs, and on and on. We just assume they understand what we do.