FDNY Firefighter Darren Hirsch Squad Company 270
By Nick Graziano
If a firefighter gets the opportunity to be involved in the rescue of another firefighter that will be the highlight of his or her career and something they will remember forever. On April 3,2021 at 0218 hours the Queens dispatcher began receiving numerous calls for a fire in a commercial building in the St. Albans neighborhood in south Queens. Upon the transmission of the 10-75 Squad Co. 270 received a ticket to respond. While the squad was enroute to the fire a 2nd alarm was transmitted. The fire would go to a 4th alarm. When the companies arrived, they were met with a heavy smoke condition coming from a fire in three stores of a taxpayer. FF Darren J. Harsch, assigned the forcible entry/irons position in Squad Co. 270 joined Engine Co. 311 as they stretched a 2 ½ inch hoseline to the rear of the building. Engine Co. 311 charged the hoseline and started knocking down the heavy fire. Suddenly and without warning a 20-by-15 foot section of the roof collapsed and landed right where Engine Co. 311 was operating its hoseline. FF Harsch and FF Paul Jennings of Squad Co. 270 who were operating near the rear doorway were pushed back by a wall of smoke under pressure that forcefully came their way. Two maydays were transmitted to the chief, one for the collapse that occurred and another for the officer of Engine Co. 311. FFs Harsch and Jennings immediately entered what was left of the unstable taxpayer to search for the members of Engine Co. 311. FF Harsch saw that the section of the roof that collapsed was mostly laying on the floor and created only a few voids. FFs Harsch and Jennings quickly located and removed the nozzle and backup firefighter, but the officer was missing. FFs Harsch and Jennings reentered the collapsed area to search for the officer where they encountered burning roof material all around them and zero visibility from the smoke. They began their search by following the hoseline that Engine Co. 311 was using. FF Harsch was able to locate the nozzle beneath burning debris and passed it to FF Jennings. FF Jennings used the hoseline to extinguish and contain the fire. FF Harsch was able to pick up the faint sound of a PASS alarm and used that to help determine the officer’s exact location. He transmitted a mayday for a confirmed trapped member and requested additional personnel and equipment which came from the other members of Squad Co. 270, Rescue Co. 4 and the Firefighter Assist and Search Team (FAST) truck.
FF Harsch began the process of reaching the trapped officer by using a Sawzall with a wood cutting blade. He first made cuts to determine the position of the officer’s body. FF Harsch then made additional cuts to reveal the officer’s body with the boot and leg being the first parts to show. Once the officer began to move his legs FF Harsch knew he was alive. FF Harsch was able to confirm the identity of the officer by the company and position number on his radio and the identity that showed on the Electronic Fireground Accountability System. FF Harsch continued to make small cuts until there was enough room for Rescue Co. 4 to use a battery-operated extrication tool to lift what was left of the roof off the officer’s head and chest. When FF Harsch and the other members working with him reached the trapped officer, he was still breathing air from his SCBA and he started talking with his rescuers. He was placed in a Stokes basket and handed off to EMS and taken to a hospital for treatment of burns and other injuries. The officer survived his injuries.
For his actions that contributed to saving the life of an FDNY officer, FF Darren J. Harsch of Squad Co. 270 is being honored at the Bravest Awards Dinner.