Firefighters rescued two elderly people from a Brooklyn fire early Thursday morning, including an unconscious 200-pound man.
The 71-year-old man was in critical condition from burns and smoke inhalation, and a 69-year-old woman was discovered in cardiac arrest from smoke inhalation.
Firetruck chauffeur Francis Valerio, 40, climbed up a ladder to the fifth-floor apartment where he broke open the bedroom window and discovered the victims inside by crawling on the floor through the black smoke. Another firefighter climbed in through the fire escape to assist in the search.
Several firefighters struggled to pull the unconscious man out, who sources said weighed about 200 pounds, and managed to get both victims out while other firefighters coming up from downstairs extinguished the flames. The woman was unconscious but firefighters were also able to pull her out alive.
"They made a difference in these people living a few more minutes," said Deputy Chief Mike Ajello, from Batallion Division 15. "The ending wouldn't have been the same. These people were in critical need of help."
Neighbors called 911 after the fire started around 5:40 a.m. in the couple’s apartment of the six-floor building on East 21st Street and Caton Avenue. The wiring in an electrical cord behind the couple's living room couch was believed to be the source of the blaze, the fire department said. The apartment also lacked a working smoke alarm.
EMT crews began treating the victims in the lobby, and the woman was initially taken to Kings County Hospital, where she had improved to critical but stable condition. The man was taken to SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
The couple were then taken to Jacobi Hospital for treatment in its hyperbaric chambers.
Four firefighters were treated for minor injuries and treated in local hospitals.
Republished with permission of The New York Post.