Firefighters Detail Rescue of Four from NJ House Fire

Nov. 8, 2023
Paterson firefighters rescued a man and two children over a ground ladder and a woman via the interior from the top floor.

A man hanging from a window and screams from inside the burning home resulted in the heroic rescue of four people in Paterson early one morning. 

Just before 5:30 a.m. on Sept. 20, Paterson fire crews were dispatched for a reported structure fire at 50 Madison Avenue. 

When he arrived, Battalion Chief Giocchino Panico saw fire coming from the front door and heavy smoke issuing from the 2 1/2-story home. 

“I could see a gentleman hanging out of a third-floor window on the alpha or front side of the house,”  Panico told “I saw that, and I quickly just gave my size-up...I thought the guy was going to jump out the window. He was literally hanging out the window.”

Panico ordered arriving units to commence fire attack and rescue efforts simultanesouly. Among the orders, Ladder 3 was assigned to throw their 35-foot ladder up to reach the adult male in quick fashion. 

As the ladder was being placed, fire started to issue from the second-floor window, which Panico believes forced the adult male to go back into the third floor, saving himself from the three-story fall. Firefighter Ryan Stoeckle climbed the ladder in an attempt to save the man and anyone else who may have been occupying the house.

As Stoeckle raced toward the man, the man wasted no time on jumping on to the ladder as soon as Stoeckle got to the top. When the adult male got on the ladder, he immediately went limp, pinning down Stoeckle 35 feet in the air.

Stoeckle was able to roll the man off his body, giving him to Capt. Thomas Gander, and he was able to carry the man down the ladder and got him safely onto a waiting stretcher.

Shifting his focus to the screaming from inside the house, Stoeckle had no hesitation to enter the burning building.

As Stoeckle was conducting his search, just a few feet into the bedroom, he found a 4-month-old baby. Craddling the child, he retreated to the window to hand the baby to a firefighter on the ladder. Going back into the home, Stoeckle retrieved an 8-year child, and the rescue process began all over again.

After handing off the second child, Stoeckle continued his search efforts and found the mother, unconcious, on the opposite side of the room. Stoeckle began the evacuation procedure, and as he was reaching the window, a rescue team was able to reach the third floor from inside the building. Capt. Thomas Dyk and his crew were able to safely remove the mother.

After all the victims were rescued from the fire, firefighters focused their efforts to control the fire. It was a well-oiled machine, and firefighters recalled to that everyone knew where to be and what to do, reinforced from previous training.

“Just like cogs in a wheel, everything just flowed. The second we got on scene everybody knew," Gander said. "I said 35 to the third floor. 35, boom, straight up. One guy footed; firefighter Stoeckle ran right up the ladder. It was like we were doing a drill in the back of the firehouse. I went up right behind him. The individual came down and just did the whole thing just it just flowed.”

With the fire under control, it was a waiting game to see if the victims would make it out of the intensive care unit.

The focus was on the victims' health and their health only, according to Stoeckle.

Within a couple of weeks, all were discharged from the hospital in good condition. A sense of relief and thankfulness filled the Paterson firefighters who responded that morning.

“By the time the fire was done and over with, we finally came outside, able to take our gear off and finally relax. Take a deep breath and that's when it hit, like wow, we just pulled four people out of this building that were probably seconds or minutes away from dying,” said Stoeckle.

Gander had seen it all play out in front of his own eyes and with all parties involved safely returning to loved ones he had this to say about Stoeckle: “I know it’s cliché to say, but that kid’s a hero."

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