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NY Daily News - December 29, 2004

Firefighters pulled an unconscious woman from her blazing Washington Heights apartment yesterday, reviving her before she was rushed to a local hospital, fire officials said.

The fire at 119 Audubon Ave. was reported at 11:10 a.m., as it consumed an apartment in the six-story building.

"On the way in, we heard on the radio a report of an elderly woman in there," said Firefighter John Holzapfel, "so of course, the sense of urgency really went up."

Holzapfel and his fellow rescuers from Ladder Co. 34 stormed up the stairs to the fifth floor, where smoke was spewing from a window.

"After we forced the door, I got down on my belly to try and see as much as I could," Holzapfel said.

While other firefighters held back the fire with extinguishers, Holzapfel crawled through the smoky apartment to find the woman, unconscious in the next room.

"She wasn't breathing," he said. "I didn't know at the time if she was burned, but she had stopped breathing when I found her."

Holzapfel dragged the woman to safety and then carried her down to a lower floor. Once in the fresh air, she revived.

"She kind of gasped, you know, gulping in air," said the firefighter, recalling the moment of relief.

The woman, whose identity was not immediately released, was rushed to the Harlem Hospital burn unit in serious condition with possible respiratory burns, according to FDNY officials.

Engine Co. 84 managed to contain the fire in the apartment and brought the all-hands blaze under control at 11:35 a.m.