Early Friday morning December 18, 1998, tragedy struck the NYC Fire Department
for the 3rd time this year. A mere 7 days before Christmas the Red Devil
claimed the lives of 3 fire fighters.

At 0454 hours Brooklyn transmitted box 4080 for a top floor fire at 17
Vandalia Avenue in the Starrett City development complex. The sprawling
complex is located on Brooklyn's south shore in the Spring Creek section. The
10 story 50 x 200 fireproof building is used as a senior citizen's residence.

Engine 257 and ladder 170, both quartered in Canarsie, were assigned 1st due
and arrived within 4 minutes. By that time the fire already could be seen
blowing through two windows. Second and 3rd alarms were quickly transmitted.

As the 1st due ladder company, L170's duty is to search the fire floor.
Lieutenant Joseph Cavalieri, and fire fighters Christopher Bopp and James
Bohan ascended 10 flights of stairs with extinguishers and forcible entry
tools. Their mission was to rescue the resident of apartment 10-D who was
believed trapped inside.

Fortunately for the elderly resident she escaped shortly before the forcible
entry team arrived. Unfortunately for them, she left the apartment door wide
open. The additional oxygen from the hallway fed the inferno within and blew
out the windows. The halls were equipped with sprinklers but for reasons
unknown to anyone is why they were deactivated.

As the Lieutenant and fire fighters arrived at the door, a sudden change in
the wind direction forced an estimated 29-MPH wind gust into the apartment,
and a 2,000 degree fireball into the hallway. The 3 men only had enough time
to get a Mayday out. The high heat instantly asphyxiated them and burned their
masks off of them. Despite the best efforts of the rescue team and EMS, all 3
were pronounced dead at the hospital. Also injured in the fire were 6 other
fire fighters and 4 residents. All but 1 are in stable condition at various
hospitals. The most severely injured civilian, the occupant of the fire
apartment, is in the hyperbaric unit in Jacoby Hospital in critical condition.

Lieutenant Cavalieri, 42, a resident of Malverne Long Island, is a 15-year
veteran and leaves behind a wife and 2 teenaged daughters. Fire fighter Bopp,
27, a Brooklyn native, leaves behind a wife in her 3rd month of pregnancy.
Fire fighter Bohan, 25, lived with his parents in Middle Village Queens and
had an older brother.

This fire is being called the worst since the Waldbaums fire of August 2,
1978, in which 6 fire fighters lost their lives. This brings the total of fire
fighters killed in the line of duty to 780. The cause of the blaze was
careless smoking.

Frank Raffa
Supv. Dispatcher FDNY
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