FDNY Lt. JonPaul Augier and Firefighter Joseph Jurgens

April 8, 2010
On Feb. 24, 2009, at 3:48 a.m., Augier and Jurgens responded to a Chinatown tenement fire – an incident that turned out unique compared to anything they had experienced before.


People were pouring out of the building and smoke was pushing off the 5th floor from a second floor, rear apartment fire.

Ladder 1 was the second-due truck and arrived simultaneously with the first-due, Augier said. “It looked like a typical tenement in Chinatown, but the building was irregular,” he said; “110 feet deep, 100 years old, heavily occupied.”

Jurgens added, “We knew there was a lot of work to be done – for everyone... Being that there were so many people, we had the idea that not everyone was going to make it.”

Augier’s crew made their way in with the first-due truck – himself and his irons team – and, “Within the next 10 seconds things got progressively worse.”

The hallway erupted into fire, blew over their heads and up the stairs. “We retreated back down the staircase on our bellies,” he said. “I remember trying to get back up on my feet, and I had a probie with me on his first fire…”

As an engine company came in below and charged a line, Augier’s team made entry on the 3rd floor and found there were four apartments per floor, each of which had one real door and one sealed door, as a result of retrofits to the old building. There were also sealed doors to what were once common bathrooms.

“Out of 10 doors, only four gave access to apartments,” Augier said. “It’s a little bit of a mind bender for us when we’re trying to size up what we’re dealing with.”

They forced entry to the first apartment, then to the second, where they were directly above the fire - and it had gained entry.

“I went to locate and vent a window, and I literally knelt right down on top of someone,” Augier said. It was a young adult female. Then Jurgens, the irons man, yelled that he had someone too.

Augier said he dragged the woman to can man at the door and assisted Jurgens in dragging the other victim to the hallway. Engine company 7 came up and contained the fire so they could make exit with the victims down the stairs.

The victims were not breathing and were quickly handed off to paramedics “They did their magic and got them back,” Augier said.

Both Augier and Jurgens said they were honored to be recognized, and that this incident was unique in their careers.

“This was the first time in my career that I felt directly related to the outcome,” Augier said. Jurgens added, “This will definitely stand out… I don’t know if we’ll get too many more fires like this.”

However, both stressed that the rescues were made possible by the actions of everyone working the scene, and that they consider these to be group awards.

“This building was so occupied – it took an effort from everybody to make sure it was cleared,” Augier said.

“From an officer’s standpoint it was a little bit of a juggling act,” he said. “That’s how it stood out – it seemed like an awful lot of things going on at once, and considering how advanced this fire was, and how many people there were, we were very lucky to only lose three.”

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