January 27, 2005 -- Two firefighter buddies who survived Sunday's fatal Bronx fire have one another - and a 10-foot rope - to thank, the retired fire-chief dad of one of the heroes told The Post yesterday.
The two, Joseph DiBernardo, 34, and Jeffrey Cool, 37, of Rescue 3, were at adjacent windows in the fire-swept fourth-floor apartment looking for a way out, said Joseph DiBernardo Sr.
"Jeff yelled over to Joey that he had a rope, and Joey volunteered to hold it and support him going down," said DiBernardo.
DiBernardo Jr. held onto the rope and Cool started down, and then the rope went slack, he said. "My son said he had him for a second, but Jeff must have lost control of the rope.
"Then Joey tied the rope to a window bar and started down, but the window bar broke and he fell, too," said DiBernardo Sr. "But the rope helped them. It got them down 10 extra feet. Instead of falling 40 feet, they fell 30 feet."
DiBernardo, a retired FDNY chief, was heading into Cornell Medical Center to visit his critically injured son when he stopped to speak to The Post.
"Joey's doing good," he said, noting that his bachelor son - who had just undergone pelvic and bladder surgery - suffered two shattered heels, two broken ankles, a broken leg, a broken pelvis, and bruises to one lung and his heart in the fall.
"Jeff's doing good, too," he said. "Joey keeps asking about him. I told him, 'Don't worry. You saved Jeff's life. He's all right.' "
DiBernardo Jr., who keeps going in and out of consciousness, also keeps asking, "Am I going to go back to work?"
"His whole life is the Fire Department," he said proudly. DiBernardo said he hasn't told his son that two firefighters didn't survive their leaps from the inferno.
"I don't bring it up," he said. "Our kid's all right. He's going to live. The others aren't here with us. We think we're lucky."
DiBernardo Sr. angrily blamed the two deaths on the illegal subdivision of the apartment, and said he hoped criminal charges are brought against those responsible.
He also blasted former Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen for dropping the long-standing practice of issuing ropes to all firefighters.
"If Von Essen hadn't taken the ropes away, maybe everyone would be alive today," he said.
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