Firefighters Performed Rescue After Rescue in Brooklyn Arson Fire, Saving 11 People

NY Daily News - April 25, 2011

by Patrice O'Shaughnessy

As an arson fire tore through a Sunset Park, Brooklyn, tenement, Firefighters Kevin Hogan and Joseph Dunn went back in repeatedly, performing rescue after rescue, saving 11 people between them, including an unconscious pregnant woman. No lives were lost in the inferno, and one was gained: Weeks later, as she lay critically injured in the Staten Island University Hospital burn unit, Huimin Chen, the woman Hogan saved, delivered a baby boy. Both are doing well.

For their diligent and valiant efforts to preserve life in the March 13 blaze, Hogan and Dunn are the Daily News Heroes of the Month.

When he heard about Chen giving birth, Hogan said, "I thought that was terrific - it was a great feeling to pull someone out and because of that, another life was brought into the world.

"It worked out good, luckily nobody died."

Dunn added, "All the elements were there that people could have perished."

Forty people suffered injuries from the blowtorch-like fire that cops say Chiu Tsang set at the base of the staircase of the four-story tenement at 510 61st St. about 5 a.m. on that Sunday.

Tsang is due to be arraigned today in Brooklyn Supreme Court on an indictment charging him with 40 counts of assault, as well as reckless endangerment, burglary and arson.

The fire went to three alarms and drew 35 FDNY units and 160 firefighters.

Hogan, 45, and Dunn, 34, pulled up to the building with Ladder 114. Most of the tenants were Chinese who didn't speak English.

"The fire was on the front stairs all the way to the roof," said Hogan, a 16-year veteran. "There were people on the fire escapes."

He went to the third floor, where he found a boy about 10 years old and a woman on a bed.

"The room was completely smoked out. They were petrified," Hogan said.

He grabbed them and put them on the fire escape.

Dunn, with seven years on the job, was on his first day as "chauffeur" - the specially trained driver of the rig - and manned the tower ladder with the rescue bucket. He stopped at the third floor, where the woman and boy were.

"They looked like they would jump," said Dunn. "They were very timid, and I had to repeat, 'Let's go!' And finally I stuck my arms out and pulled them in, and took them to the street."

Hogan went back into the apartment. In another bedroom, he found two babies on the floor, unconscious, and their mother, Chen, also unconscious and bleeding from the mouth.

Hogan handed the twins to a firefighter on the fire escape, and went back in and dragged Chen to the fire escape and handed her off.

Again, Hogan went back in and found an elderly man crawling around, lost and incoherent. The man collapsed as Hogan led him to the fire escape, so the firefighter lifted him out the window.

"Firefighter Kevin Anderson yelled that a guy was hanging out a window on the top floor and was going to jump," said Dunn. "I brought the bucket to the top floor and got him. He said, 'My wife! My wife!' so I put my mask on and went in the apartment and found a mother, an 11-year-old boy and a 7-year-old boy on the bed unconscious."

Dunn carried each victim to the bucket and took the family to the ground.

Meanwhile, a Mayday was called because a firefighter fell through stairs between the third and fourth floors. Anderson told Hogan there was a woman trapped on the top floor, and Hogan and Dunn went up in the bucket to get her.

Hogan was among several firefighters injured fighting the blaze.

"It was hair-raising, yet total teamwork," Dunn said. "Everyone made it, thank God."

On April 2, Chen, 27, gave birth to a premature, 4-pound, 9-ounce boy. She is still in the burn unit, in critical but stable condition. Her son is in the neonatal intensive care unit, but they have been able to interact.

"They are doing remarkably well," said a hospital spokesman, Christian Preston. The newborn is named Kevin. Preston could not say for sure if the infant was named after his rescuer.

"Is it just a coincidence?" asked Hogan with a laugh. "If not, I think it's pretty amazing. It's a nice compliment."