Infant Pulled from Thanksgiving Day fire Clinging to Life

NY Daily News - November 26, 2011

by Matthew Lysiak & Jonathan Lemire NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Firefighter hero recalls reviving tot on the scene

Firefighter Neil Malone furiously pumped the eight-month-old baby's chest and forced air into his mouth, praying the limp little boy would take a breath on his own.

Three minutes became four, and four minutes became five, and tiny Josiah Alexis still remained lifeless.

"I knew I was working against the clock -- every second, every minute is crucial," said Malone Friday, recalling the previous day's drama.

"The baby was unresponsive [and\] he had no pulse," said Malone. "It was about five minutes and thirty seconds that the baby was left without air. It didn't look good."

But then suddenly, Josiah coughed -- and gasped.

"It's like a song to your ears to hear that baby get its breath on its own," the firefighter said.

Josiah's pulse returned but he remained in critical condition the day after the Thanksgiving blaze, his family said.

"The smoke has affected his lungs. He's still in danger," said Serge Alexis, who owns the Park Slope brownstone where his family lives. "He's the worst of everyone."

Josiah is heavily sedated and receiving around-the-clock care at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, said Alexis, who recalled the tot as a happy boy before the fire.

"He's a smiling baby," said the great-grandfather, who raced home from Thanksgiving dinner after hearing about the blaze. "Always smiling."

The child suffered burns on much of his body and is using an oxygen mask and breathing tube, his great-aunt said.

"He's still clinging to life," said Magaly Elie. "He still has a lung problem, and it's hard for him to breath."

"We are praying there is no oxygen deprivation to his brain," she said.

Fire Department investigators believe the fast-moving fire was ignited by a cigarette carelessly tossed on a mattress, FDNY sources said.

The fire tore through the third-floor of the brownstone, forcing one man to leap from a window to a second-floor ledge.

The flames blocked the brownstone's exits, trapping the terrified family inside.

"It was an inferno," Malone recalled. "I've seen a lot of fires in my 28 years [with the FDNY\] but I've never seen this scope of devastation."

Firefighters fought their way through the flames and rescued Jasmine and Justine Alexi, 20-year-old twin sisters, Jasmine's boyfriend and the baby.

"The baby was covered in soot," said Malone, a Flatbush resident. "To find the baby in all of that debris is just amazing."

Justine, who is Josiah's mother, and her boyfriend suffered severe burns but are expected to survive, officials said.

After battling the blaze, Malone returned to Engine 239's firehouse for Thanksgiving dinner -- and said a prayer for the family he helped save.

"I'm not a hero, I'm just doing my job," he said. "It was the best Thanksgiving I ever had."