It wasn't a high-wire act, but it certainly was more impressive.
The following is the medal day account of Firefighter Sean O'Mallon of FDNY Engine Company 201. O'Mallon was the Nozzle firefighter at Brooklyn Box 33-2637. It doesn't come with a two-hour pre game show but we hope you enjoy it.
Frequently, it is said: “only truckies get medals.” While there are times when this seems true, engine company Firefighters–especially the nozzle Firefighter–are often the unsung heroes behind many successful rescues. Additionally, there are times when the action of the nozzle Firefighter, through sheer determination and courage, eclipses all other actions. This was the case on Sunday morning, March 13, 2011, when the tones sounded in the quarters of Engine 201 in Sunset Park.
Working that morning was FF Sean O’Mallon. At 0512 hours, the company responded as first-due engine to a multiple-floor fire at 510 61st Street, a four-story, 75- by 25-foot, class three multiple dwelling. While responding, fire dispatch notified the members that there were numerous people trapped throughout the building. Arriving in approximately four minutes, the company members found heavy fire blowing out the front door, all stairway windows and the roof bulkhead. Members also observed several people descending the fire escape while screaming that people were trapped inside. Arriving in approximately four minutes, the company members found heavy fire blowing out the front door, all stairway windows and the roof bulkhead. Members also observed several people descending the fire escape while screaming that people were trapped inside.
The members of Engine 201 stretched a line to the front door and FF O’Mallon, working the nozzle, realized that time was critical. He made an aggressive push inside the building to the first set of stairs. Using all his skill, he forcefully moved up the stairs. While pushing the line up to the second floor, one step gave way. FF O’Mallon quickly extricated his leg and continued to climb, knowing full well the stairs were in danger of giving way. FF O’Mallon and the members of Engine 201 courageously advanced past the second- and third-floor landings.
Meanwhile, Ladder 114’s Officer radioed Engine 201, reporting heavy fire in apartment 3R. Realizing a second line would be delayed due to the collapsed staircase, FF O’Mallon was directed by his Officer to move back down the stairs and into the burning apartment. Even though FF O’Mallon already had knocked down a significant amount of fire, he pushed into the apartment where he found heavy fire throughout and boldly attacked it. He quickly knocked down the flames in the kitchen and proceeded down a hallway in zero visibility to extinguish fire in two bedrooms. With the apartment fire contained, FF O’Mallon moved the hose-line back into the hallway and proceeded toward the fourth floor. However, as he moved up these stairs, they, too, gave way. The Firefighter re-directed the hose-line stream, allowing his Officer to ascend the stairs. However, the stairs gave way again and this time, FF O’Mallon fell up to his chest. A mayday was radioed and, with assistance from FFs Jerry Bennici, Engine 201, and Raymond Pollard, Ladder 114, he was removed from the collapse.
The mayday was rescinded and FF O’Mallon, though exhausted, continued up to the fourth floor and resumed his position at the nozzle. Here, he knocked down a fire in apartment 4L where an unconscious man was saved. Then, he turned the nozzle around and knocked down the remaining fire in the stairway and bulkhead.
FF O’Mallon sustained second-degree burns to both knees in fighting this fire, which ended with 31 10-45s, eight of which were characterized as code twos. In the incident report, it was noted, “FF O’Mallon’s aggressiveness at this fire was an example of ‘how the first line goes is how the fire goes’ and his determination demonstrated the finest traditions of the Department.” Therefore, the Fire Department is proud to honor FF Sean O’Mallon today with the Thomas F. Dougherty Medal
Bill Carey is the daily news and blog manager for Elsevier Public Safety (FireRescue Magazine/Firefighter Nation, JEMS and LawOfficer sites.) Bill also manages the FireEMSBlogs.com network and is a former volunteer lieutenant with the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department in Prince George's County, Maryland.
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