A routine day tour for the members of Engine 33 and Tower Ladder 9 would turn tragic when at 1517 hours Manhattan Box 436 was transmitted for an explosion at the intersection of 1st Avenue and 7th Street. Engine 33 arrived 1st due and transmitted a 10-75 for a fire and collapse at the new location of 2nd Avenue and 7th Street. Ladder 9, driven by Firefighter Bert Springstead with great expertise and precision, moved past the collapsed building and positioned the Tower Ladder in front of exposure 4 ensuring that he was outside the collapse zone but yet in great position to operate the bucket in the event search and rescue Firefighters were needed.
Firefighter Springstead put the Tower Ladder into operation, Firefighter Matt Cassidy and Ladder 9’s Roofman entered into the bucket. Firefighter Cassidy operating the bucket dropped the roof firefighter onto the roof and then with the bucket dropped down to the top floor. While in the bucket, Firefighter Cassidy could see the rapid advancement of fire throughout the fire building as well as the exposures. He relayed this information to the Incident Commander.
At one point, Firefighter Cassidy heard a transmission asking for the top floor to be searched in exposure 4. He moved the basket to the top floor fire escape and through the heavy smoke billowing from below, he made entry onto the fire escape and into the window.
Down at the street level, Firefighter Springstead was at the pedestal manning the controls. Firefighter Springstead monitored the movement of the basket as well as fire conditions in the main building, as well as the exposures. Shortly thereafter, there were Mayday transmissions for a firefighter trapped on the roof of exposure 4. Firefighter Springstead knew that he could not move the bucket from the top floor as Firefighter Cassidy had used it to enter into the top floor apartment. Inside the top floor apartment Firefighter Cassidy began searching the apartment. Smoke had started to consume the upper floors and he heard an unnerving rumble and creaking. Firefighter Cassidy suddenly found himself falling forward as the floors began to crumble under him. Firefighter Cassidy quickly gained his bearings and scrambled from the area of the collapsing floor diving onto a bed and rolling out the adjacent window onto the fire escape and into the tower ladder bucket. Firefighter Springstead realized that Cassidy had made his way back into the bucket not because he visually saw him but because he heard him through the intercom in the bucket. Springstead confirmed that Firefighter Cassidy was secure in the bucket and quickly moved the Tower Ladder through the zero visibility created by the black smoke from below, toward the roof where the trapped member was known to be. The roof firefighter from Rescue 1 was stranded near the front of exposure 4. The roof had partially collapsed blocking his means of egress. With Firefighter Cassidy now in the bucket operating in the high heat and zero visibility was positioned at the roof level, called out to the trapped firefighter assisting him into the bucket. As the tower ladder basket began to move away from the building the two firefighters witnessed the further collapse of the roof and heavy fire now through the roof.
Firefighter Springstead positioned the Tower Ladder bucket outside the collapse zone. While awaiting a water supply into the Tower Ladder, Firefighter Springstead noticed what appeared to be indications of an imminent collapse of the exterior of exposure 4.
Though Tower Ladder 9 had been supplied with water, the need to shut down and move the apparatus was imperative. Firefighter Springstead bedded the Tower Ladder bucket and called for assistance in helping move the Tower Ladder out of the collapse zone. Firefighter Springstead was in a dangerous position operating on the side of exposure 4. Shortly after moving his apparatus, the entire front structure of exposure 4 collapsed, sending debris, including an I beam, into the center of 2nd Avenue where the Tower Ladder had been set up.
Lives were saved that day due to the quick thinking and heroic acts of both firefighters Bert Springstead and Matt Cassidy. Both Firefighters Springstead and Cassidy exemplify what it means to be a NYC Firefighter.