First Anniversary Of FDNY's

Monday marks the first anniversary of a day that claimed the lives of three of New York's Bravest in two separate fires. In the following report, NY1's Amanda Farinacci takes a look back at the tragic day that's now known to the FDNY as Black Sunday, and the steps that have been taken to prevent history from repeating itself.

January 23, 2005 was a brutal day to be a firefighter - a deadly day for three of them. On that cold, snowy Sunday, Firefighter Richard Sclafani was killed after being knocked unconscious, without his mask, as his brothers searched for him in a smoky basement fire in Brooklyn.

Lieutenants Curtis Meyran and John Bellew died in the Bronx, when they jumped from a burning five-story building with four others who were critically hurt.

"I think a lot came out of that fire besides the tragedy, the terrible nature of the event," says Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.

It was especially terrible because critics say the men might have lived if they had been equipped with personal ropes and harnesses, which the department stopped issuing in 2000.

After Black Sunday the commissioner ordered another look, and after exhaustive testing a new rope and harness system was picked at a cost of $11 million.

"We've had thousands of runs with it, thousands of tests, and tried intentionally to make it malfunction and we couldn't, so we're very secure with it," says Scoppetta.

Nearly 1,500 of the city's nearly 12,000 firefighters have been trained on the system. The FDNY expects everyone to be trained by this summer.

"We've not yet had an incident that called for the use of the ropes," says the fire commissioner. "But they're there if they're needed, and if we save one life we will have done a lot."

But the widows of the two fallen firefighters say it all comes too late for their husbands. They are suing the FDNY for failing to supply them with the potentially lifesaving gear.

Meantime, the four firefighters who survived - Brendan Cawley, Eugene Stolowski, Jeffrey Cool and Joseph DiBernardo - have battled back from serious injuries.

Cool was forced to retire, and DiBernardo will join him at the end of next week when his retirement is finalized. All of them continue extensive physical therapy.

A plaque dedication will be held Monday in the Bronx for Lieutenants Meyran and Bellew. Another will be held Tuesday in Brooklyn for Firefighter Sclafani.

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