February 19, 2006 -- A heat-resistant curtain that helped extinguish a Queens inferno and save three trapped firefighters last month was invented by two of the city's Bravest. "I'm so proud that we made this thing and it worked," said retired firefighter Tom Oswald, 49, who worked out of Ladder 19 in the Bronx until last year.
"These guys were able to go home that night. That's the most important thing," Oswald said of the Queens firefighters who were trapped by a Jan. 26 blaze, so hot it melted the brass nozzle of an FDNY hose. Oswald and Queens firefighter Pat Kilduff created the "KO Curtain" to help the city's Bravest fight fires in tall buildings where fierce winds tend to blow through broken windows and fuel the flames. The blaze last month at the Beach 41st Houses in the Rockaways was the first time the 20-pound prototype was used during a fire. The curtain is a blend of bulletproof Kevlar and Nomex, a fire-resistant fabric. It has six copper rods sewn inside to weigh it down.
Firefighters draped the 5-by-8-foot curtain across broken windows on the building's sixth floor to stop strong winds from feeding the inferno. The curtain helped give firefighters from Ladder 121 and Engine 264, who had been trapped at the end of a hall, enough time to dose the blaze and escape the building.Oswald and Kilduff, who works out of Ladder 134 in the Rockaways, came up with the idea for the curtain in 1989 after a string of high-rise fires in the Bronx. They spent years brainstorming, sewing together prototypes with help from Oswald's wife and testing the blanket off the former firefighter's roof before recently presenting their creation to FDNY brass."Our firefighters have always been innovative and resourceful, especially when its comes to their tools," said FDNY spokesman David Billig.
The curtain is still being evaluated by fire officials. Seven fire companies have been asked to test its effectiveness."We're hoping that every truck company in the job will get one of these things," Oswald said. "This is something that's going to save lives, not only firemen but civilians."