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We are pleased to announce the newest honorees in our Firehouse® Magazine Heroism & Community Service Awards program and take pride in highlighting the bravery of these outstanding individuals. We recognize the judges: Chief Mark McLees (ret.) of the Syracuse, NY, Fire Department; Chief Timothy J. Scranton of the Beverly Hills, CA, Fire Department; and Deputy Chief William Goldfeder of the Loveland-Symmes, OH, Fire Department. We also thank retired FDNY Rescue 1 Firefighter Paul Hashagen, who administers the program.
For this year’s program, we teamed the firefighters together who worked at the same incident. The judges scored each individual firefighter separately. The scores (circled numbers) reflect those the judges picked from the highest degree of difficulty in descending order, in their judgment. Chief McLees discusses this year’s program in the April “Firehouse® Magazine Insider” at Firehouse.com/podcasts.com/podcasts.
1. Ex-Chief John Curley
Bellmore, NY, FD Engine 2
On Nov. 12, 2012 at 7:40 A.M., Ex-Chief John Curley and his son were in a fire department pickup when a report of a house fire, possibly with people trapped, was released. Curley was the first to arrive. A two-story, high-ranch-style home had heavy fire from front to rear on the exposure-4 side. As Curley approached the scene, there was screaming coming from the other side of the street. He asked if everybody was out and was told the mother was still inside. The 61-year-old son, covered in soot, was trying to place a six-foot ladder on top of a 5½-foot-tall file cabinet. Curley told him to hold the cabinet while he jumped on top of it and placed the ladder against an air conditioner under the bedroom window. He climbed up the ladder, ripped out the screen and broke several panes in the window, in the process burning his fingers.
Heavy, black smoke began to vent. Curley could see the bed and reached in; the sheets moved freely. Curley thought she might be on the floor. Fire had already burned the top two feet of the bedroom door. He could make out what appeared to be legs lying on the floor. Curley climbed over the air conditioning unit and crawled to the unconscious 92-year-old woman. He lifted her up and carried her to the bed, then went to the window for some air. He yelled to his son and an arriving chief that he was going to need help. Curley lifted her halfway out the window on top of the air conditioning unit. Fire was rolling across the ceiling and his ears and head were starting to burn. He chose to climb over the woman and back onto the ladder. His son, chief and two Nassau County police officers were holding the file cabinet and legs of the ladder which were beginning to slide. The woman survived with serious injuries.
2. Lieutenant Thomas G. Woods
FDNY Ladder 154
On Oct. 29, 2012, portions of the Northeast were struck by Superstorm Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record measured by winds spanning 1,100 miles. Winds of 110 mph and a storm surge hit the New York City area. In the Rockaway community of Queens, because of the storm surge and tidal current, the Atlantic Ocean met Jamaica Bay across the 1,500-foot-wide peninsula. Streets were flooded and rising by the minute. The sea of water, high winds and loss of power forced neighbors to the upper floors of the homes. Lieutenant Thomas G. Woods lived on Beach 130 Street and was off duty. He could see flames from building fires about two blocks away. The 60-mph sustained winds were driving flames toward his street.
Dressed in a wetsuit, Woods tried to use a garden hose to extinguish embers that were covering his and his neighbor’s homes. The corner building, a landmark restaurant, was starting to burn. His neighbors were unable to navigate the high waters and were calling for help. Using a surfboard, he assisted a woman and a dog into a kayak and pushed them away from the fire, then led five more people to the safety of another home. The fire was burning multiple homes on Beach 129 and Beach 131 streets. Some of the homes on Beach 130 Street were beginning to ignite. Woods had to move everyone, including his family, to safety a few blocks away.