Lone FDNY Survivor of Historic 23rd Street Fire Dies, Dept. Says

The Patch - March 07, 2020

by Anna Quinn, Patch Staff

he Greenwich Village captain was the only firefighter to survive a 1966 fire that was the worst loss of NYC firefighters aside from 9/11.

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GREENWICH VILLAGE, MANHATTAN — The lone survivor of one of the most devastating fires for New York City firefighters has died, the department announced Friday.

FDNY Capt. Manuel Fernandez — the only member of West 10th Street's Engine Company 18 to survive the historic 23rd Street fire in 1966 — died on Tuesday, according to the home where his funeral will be held.

Fernandez, who was retired at the time of his death, served with the city's fire department for 29 years after joining in 1960, the FDNY said.

He was the chauffeur of Engine 18 when the company responded to the 23rd Street fire on October 17, 1966. The fire, which claimed the lives of 12 FDNY members, would become the single worst loss of New York City firefighters in the line of duty prior to Sept. 11.⁣

"He was the only member of his company to survive when the ground floor of the Wonder Drug Store collapsed," the department said. "The 23rd Street fire claimed the lives of 12 FDNY members of nearly every rank, from Deputy Chief to Probationary Firefighter."

Fernandez was serving as the second president of the FDNY Hispanic Society, which he co-founded, at the time of the fire.

He was instrumental in redesigning the society's Memorial Medal in honor of the firefighters that died in the 23rd Street fire. The medal was renamed the Hispanic Society 23rd Street Fire Memorial Medal and was first awarded in 2015. It continues to be awarded annually.

The captain's funeral will be held at St. Francis of Assisi Church⁣ in Queens on Friday, March 13, the department said. A wake will precede the funeral at Farenga Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation.

Here are the service details:

Farenga Funeral Home⁣
38-08 Ditmars Blvd.
Astoria, NY 11105⁣

Wednesday, March 11⁣
7 to 9 p.m.⁣

Thursday, March 12⁣
2 to 5 p.m.⁣
7 to 9 p.m.⁣

St. Francis of Assisi Church⁣
2117 45th Street⁣
Queens, NY 11105⁣

Friday, March 13⁣
11:15 a.m.