FDNY Firefighters Edwin Rodriguez, and Joseph Zanga Ladder Co 138
By Nick Graziano
At 0300 hours on July 29, 2019 Queens Box 7957 was transmitted reporting a fire on the fifth floor at 88-35 Elmhurst Ave. E289 and TL138 were both assigned 1st due. As the inside team of TL138 consisting of Captain John Speck, FF Edwin Rodriguez (138 Irons) and FF Joseph Zanca (138 Can) entered the building civilians were seen exiting the front door. Civilians on the street were screaming and pointing to the exposure 4 side of the building. FF Dennis Dermody (E289’s Chauffeur) informed TL138 Chauffeur, FF Joseph Tarantini, that a victim could be seen at the 5th floor window and that he could reposition the tower ladder on the exposure 4 side. FF Tarantini repositioned the tower ladder on the exposure 4 side of the building where he observed a woman frantically waving a white towel and screaming for help with heavy, thick, black smoke pushing out the window around her. FF Tarantini notified Captain Speck of the victim and the conditions on the exposure 4 side of the building. FF Tarantini sensing that time was of the essence told FF Mike Sweeney, 138’s OV, to immediately get in the bucket while he set up the jacks and outriggers. TL138’s Roofman, FF John Trainor, hearing the dire situation with the victim at the window prepared himself for a life saving roof rope rescue in the event the chauffeur and OV were not successful in removing the victim with the bucket. As soon as the jacks were fully down, FF Sweeney began operating the tower ladder with the bucket controls. FF Tarantini ascended to the pedestal and took over operations maneuvering the bucket through trees and over wires to get the bucket in position for victim removal. While in the bucket and nearing the frantic woman Ladder 138’s OV continued to communicate to her to try and remain calm and not to jump. The woman had her upper torso out the window but was caught on the child gate. FF Sweeney continued to communicate with the victim until he reached her at the window. Smoke and heat were pushing out the window as the OV began the process of freeing her from the child gate. FF Sweeney, Ladder 138’s OV, then gave the victim clear instructions on exactly what he was going to do and what was required of her. The victim was removed from the window via the tower ladder bucket and FF Tarantini lowered both to the ground. The OV firefighter radioed Captain Speck that the victim reported 3 other people were in the apartment including a child. FF Tarantini removed the woman from the bucket while FF Sweeney re-positioned the tower ladder bucket back to the 5th floor windows for VEIS.
FF Trainor continued his duties as the roofman venting the bulkhead of smoke and monitoring conditions until he descended to the 5th floor to search for victims. FF Tarantini ascended the interior stairs to apartment 5L to assist the inside team in their search for victims including the unaccounted for child.
While the outside team was removing the woman from the 5th floor window, the inside team of Ladder Co. 138 ascended the stairs to the 5th floor where smoke could be seen emanating from the bottom of the door to apartment 5L. The inside team found the door to the apartment unlocked and made entry. They were quickly forced to their knees due to the high heat and zero visibility from the heavy fire on the left. Captain Speck and FF Zanca began a right handed search of the apartment and FF Rodriguez began a left handed search of the apartment. With the fire beginning to grow and without a handline in place, FF Zanca assisted FF Rodriguez by using his extinguisher to hold back the fire consuming the door to bedroom #1 so that FF Rodriguez could enter and conduct a search. This was the bedroom where the female victim was removed from the window. The fire and heat began to enter the bedroom and FF Rodriguez did a quick primary search of the clutter filled room. FF Zanca began a search of the apartment and came across bedroom #2. The fire had continued to grow as the door to bedroom #1 had burned through allowing air into the fire area. FF Zanca entered bedroom #2 and began his search of an unusually large and cluttered bedroom. Realizing that there was still no line in place, he made his way over to a bed and quickly swept it for victims. FF Zanca continued on and found a second bed where he found a large partially clothed unconscious male victim and transmitted a 10-45. FF Rodriguez exited bedroom #1 crawling past the growing fire and began crawling toward bedroom #2. FF Zanca, with the assistance of Captain Speck, began removing the victim from the bedroom, past the fire and into the public hallway to the awaiting CFR engine. FF Rodriguez then entered bedroom #2 and crawled through the clutter in zero visibility to find a third victim on the floor wedged between the bed and the dresser. FF Rodriguez immediately transmitted a 10-45 and began the removal of a large unconscious male back through the large bedroom, past the fire, and toward the public hallway. Captain Speck and FF Zanca re-entered the apartment making their way back toward bedroom #2 to assist FF Rodriguez. FF Zanca expended the remainder of his can in order for FF Rodriguez and Captain Speck to effect the removal. The inside team re-entered the apartment, still without the protection of a handline or extinguisher, in a determined search for the child. It was later learned that the child was not in the apartment. In total the members of Tower Ladder 138 rescued three people, two from the fire apartment and one from the window of the fire apartment. The fire was extinguished by Engine Co. 289.
For their bravery, determination, and efforts that were part of total team effort that resulted in the removal of three people from an apartment fire, FF Edwin Rodriguez and FF Joseph Zanca of Tower Ladder 138 are being honored tonight at the Bravest Awards Dinner.