Heroism Award: FDNY Firefighter Brian J. Appleholm, Ladder 48

Firefighter Brian J. Appleholm, Ladder 48 has been recognized for his rescue of a paraplegic man during a March 9, 2011 fire at a six-story building.

It was in the afternoon around 2 p.m., he said, and upon arrival firefighters were faced with a great deal of fire showing out of two windows.

“We went into action to do what we do,” he said.

Appleholm ascended the fire escape, and as the crew rescued a woman from a fourth floor window full of smoke and heat, “She said there was another man inside,” he said.

Appleholm entered the apartment and managed to locate the 73-year-old paraplegic man.

“I did a search of the room and found him wedged between the wall and a home hospital bed,” he said. “I had to work to get him out of there and it took a little while.”

Appleholm said the heat was so intense that the man showed burns on his legs.

Appleholm got the man up to the window and onto the fire escape, and then had help carrying the man down the stairs, at which point a hose line was then in place to protect them.

“He survived all that, but then passed on about three months later from a stroke,” Appleholm said.

He says he had never before been through a rescue like that.

“Nothing like that, that was pretty dramatic,” he said, adding that it happens fast and adrenaline takes over.

“I didn’t realize how bad it was around me, but even with bunker gear on I could feel the heat and wanted to get him to safety as soon as possible,” Appleholm said.

A fellow firefighter told Appleholm that during the incident he was “sh**ing his pants for us” and that he and the victim “would have been roasted” if one of the windows had blown out at the wrong time.

“Looking back it was pretty hairy,” Appleholm said, “but at the time it’s just doing what you have to do. It was a good day, and everyone did a good job… it was a team effort.”