New York Teen Hailed As Fire Hero in Arson Blaze

April 19, 2004 -- A courageous teen is being hailed as a hero for saving his beloved grandmother from a deadly Brooklyn inferno allegedly set by a family friend.

As flames closed in early Saturday, 14-year- Quamain Gardner pushed his grandma Clara out a window of their East Flatbush apartment after she refused to leave her 75-year-old husband, James, who was crippled by a stroke.

"I didn't want to leave him. I was going to stay and probably die," Clara, 56, told The Post from her bed at Kings County Hospital.

"Quamain said, 'Come on, Mama,' and grabbed me and pushed me through the window" onto a store awning just below.

The mother of six and grandmother of eight rolled off the awning and was caught by neighbors.

Her husband of three decades was one of five who perished in the inferno.

Family friend Rodney Williams, 29, was charged with murder last night for setting the blaze - using a 99-cent bottle of rubbing alcohol as an accelerant.

He told cops he did it "to send a message" to a tenant who had been beating a girlfriend, said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Clara, who was in stable condition with minor burns, hailed her grandson, whom she helped raise.

"I'm really happy Quamain saved my life. He's a hero," she said.

But she mourned for her husband: "We lived there for 35 years. We lost everything."

Quamain said modestly, "I'm not a hero. She's my family and I did what I'm supposed to do."

He said that after he smelled smoke, he ran through the rooms of the second-floor apartment, shouting, "Fire! Fire! Everyone wake up!"

Then, he said, he carried his grandmother from the living room to the bedroom.

"The flames were getting closer. The floor was hot. There was smoke everywhere," he said.

After he pushed his grandmother out the window, he tried to leave by the front door, but the doorknob was too hot. He jumped from the window.

"He's a hero," said his uncle, Darryl Gardner.

"He did his duty. He went in there to save his grandmother. He called her 'Mom.' She practically raised him."

The fire broke at 5:30 a.m. in the three-story building at 922 New York Ave. Williams told cops a female friend asked him to "do something about" her boyfriend, a tenant whom he said was beating her up, sources said.

Williams said he bought the alcohol at a nearby bodega, soaked advertising circulars with it, stuffed them under a lobby door and set them ablaze, the sources said.