2014-01-24 / Top Stories

Local Firefighter In Brooklyn Rescue

It has been said that what distinguishes firefighters and police officers is that when others are running away from danger, they are running into it.

Fire Lieutenant Christopher Zam of Neponsit proved that on the morning of Tuesday, January 7th. At 8:20 a.m. Zam and the members of FDNY Engine 242 responded to a fire on Oliver Street in Brooklyn.

With multiple 911 calls about the fire, Zam, who started his career as a NYPD patrol officer, said, “Your radar goes up; you know it might be substantial.”

Heavy smoke poured from the six story Bay Ridge building as firefighters pulled up.

Residents were already evacuating, with at least one still on the fire escape.

As they reached the second floor landing, Zam heard a woman screaming that her husband was still inside the burning apartment.

“The woman was scared, so I made sure to tell her, ‘I’m going in, everything’s going to be ok,’” Zam said.

Inside black smoke was down to the floor. He could see an orange glow in the doorway of the kitchen ahead.

Thinking the victim might be in a rear bedroom, he went past the fire to look for the victim, even before a hose line was in place.

“We never do that, but when you have confirmed life hazard, that takes precedence,” he said. “And I knew a [hose] line would be ready soon.”

He could still hear the woman yelling behind him, so he had to act fast.

“I knew I was on borrowed time without the hose line,” he said.

Not finding anyone at the back bedroom, he started back toward the front of the apartment when he heard a cough.

Noticing another bedroom, he checked it and found a man sitting on the bed, near the window.

Zam crawled below the heat and smoke to the bed and encouraged the man to crawl to the door with him, but the man was mumbling, unable to communicate or move.

He reassured the man, who appeared to be in his 60s or 70s, that everything would be ok, and started moving the man toward the door.

Within 10 feet from of the exit, firefighters from Ladder 109 came in the apartment.

Firefighter Mike Guidera helped remove the victim to the hallway. There Firefighter Christopher Lorenzo took over for Lieutenant Zam and brought the man to a lower floor.

Zam then joined firefighters from Engine 242 to help extinguish the fire as the members of the Ladder 109 Company finished searching the apartment.

He praised the work of FDNY EMT’s Bryan Hoyos and James Hoffman, who treated the patient in the building and kept him warm in the extreme cold. The victim was transported to Lutheran Hospital in stable condition.

Zam noted that working in his firehouse that day was a firefighter celebrating his 27-year anniversary with the Department, and a probationary firefighter who graduated from the Academy last year.

“You hope you don’t have to do this, but to have the satisfaction of really helping someone in this way is amazing,” he said. “There was a narrow margin of error, but everyone did what they needed to do. I couldn’t ask for more than the way it went.”

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