NY Post - December 21, 2004


A firefighter suffered serious burns yesterday battling a Brooklyn inferno that sources said erupted when a tenant left his stove on because of the It was one of five fires blamed on faulty heating equipment on the coldest day since last winter.

Another destroyed a home on Staten Island, where neighbors ran to help rescue the four residents inside.

Ken Ditata, a 19-year FDNY veteran, was burned on his neck and ears after he rushed into a Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone to check a report — which proved unfounded — that someone was trapped.

Ditata, a father of five, was admitted to New York Hospital, where he was visited by his wife, Fran.

"It's what he does for a living," she said. "He does what he loves to do."

The blaze at 155 Herkimer St., the former home of retired Civil Court Judge John Phillips, started in the third floor apartment of Curtis Johnson. He's the only tenant who refused to leave last summer when the building was put in receivership and services were cut off.

Law-enforcement sources said he told authorities that he left his stove on when he went out because there was no heat. Johnson insisted to The Post he'd turned the stove off.

In 2002, guardians were appointed to run Phillips' $10 million real-estate empire after a judge ruled he was "mentally incapacitated" by Alzheimer's disease.

The early morning Staten Island blaze gutted a home on Grimsby Street in Midland Beach. None of the four people inside was hurt — thanks in part to neighbors who rushed to their aid as firefighters arrived on the scene. It was blamed on a defective gas furnace.

Additional reporting by Andy Geller