A firefighter engulfed in flames and desperate to escape a raging Brooklyn house fire dived head first onto a ladder yesterday before a fellow Bravest pulled him to safety and patted out his burning body.
"The firefighter was about to jump. He was screaming like crazy," said Victor Vargas, 25, who works near the three-story building on Prospect Place in Crown Heights.
Authorities said the drama -- caught on video -- came as firefighters searched for victims on the top floor after the blaze broke out at 9 a.m.
They didn't know there was no one home at the time.
Flames that had been confined to the rear of the floor suddenly burst to the front, setting Bravest Robert Wiedmann ablaze.
"It was almost like a fireball ... If the temperature gets too high, it explodes,'' said Fire Chief Edward Kilduff. "All [Wiedmann] saw was orange at that point."
The video shows balls of flame shooting through the windows as Wiedmann hangs out a broken frame amid billowing smoke. Other firefighters race with the ladder from a firetruck to reach him.
Before the ladder can even be fully extended, Wiedmann, 38, dives head first onto it. Another firefighter crawls along the ladder and pulls him away.
"The firefighter on the ladder started beating the fire with his hands," Vargas recalled.
On the ground, colleagues sprayed Wiedmann with water.
Wiedmann was taken to New York Hospital with burns over 45 percent of his body, mainly to his hands, torso and thighs.
His face had been saved by his protective equipment and ear flaps.
The FDNY confirmed Tuesday that both firefighters were in still serious but stable condition. Last night Wiedmann was conscious and talking. Another firefighter, James Gersbeck, 52, also was in serious but stable condition.
Mayor Bloomberg visited both.
Gersbeck was carried out of the building by Capt. Liam Flaherty, an old FDNY pro, sources said.
Investigators do not believe the fire is suspicious.
Republished with permission of The New York Post.