Firefighters End 2010 With Dramatic Rescue of Concord Family

SI Advance - January 01, 2011

by Maura Yates

Trucks racing to a house fire early this morning in Concord pulled up to find a man hanging out a second story bedroom window in a desperate attempt to save his wife and two daughters.

The man's 68-year-old mother-in-law was unconscious in another second floor bedroom.

It took firefighters from nearby Rescue Co. 5 and Engine Co. 160 three minutes from the time the call came in around 3:45 a.m. to get to the house at 150 Steuben Street about six blocks away.

When they arrived, smoke was billowing out the window behind the family and the scene was intense, said Firefighter Anthony Cavalieri. "We had to act quickly. We had to get moving."

"I guess they were trying to figure out how to hand the kids out," said Capt. Jim Murray.

Murray split his team in half, and ran in through the front door with Cavalieri and Firefighter Peter Greibesland. Furniture was burning in the living room when they got through the front door.

Outside the house, Rescue 5 Firefighter Pepe Saenz extended a portable ladder up to the bedroom window and "one by one we took them down," Saenz said. The 45-year-old father went down first, followed by his daughters, ages 12 and 8, and his wife, 44. "Glad we found them at the window instead of inside, unconscious."

But once the family was brought out, there was a report of a person still missing inside.

Cavalieri rushed up the stairs and found the wife's mother laying on the floor of another bedroom, between a bed and a dresser.

Meanwhile, Firefighter Joseph Steiner of Engine 160 opened the nozzle on the fire hose and began to extinguish the flames in the living room so Cavalieri could bring the woman down the stairs and outside to safety.

He carried her down the stairs in his arms and brought her out of the house where she was placed on a stretcher and given oxygen.

She remains in critical but stable condition in Staten Island University Hospital in Ocean Breeze, fire officials said.

"It was definitely a great effort," said Cavalieri, of Huguenot. "It was nice to be on the positive end of it for once. There have been too many where the outcome wasn't good."

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.