Fire Lieutenant Rescues Man from Fire
Lt. Christopher Zam
FDNY firefighters respond to many types of emergencies in their careers, but Lt. Christopher Zam saw this one as “the test of my career to this point.”
On Jan. 7, he and the members of Engine 242 responded to a fire on Oliver Street in Brooklyn at around 8:20 a.m.
There was more than one call to 911 about the fire, so, Lt. Zam said, “Your radar goes up, you know it might be substantial.”
As the company pulled in front of the six-story building in Bay Ridge, they saw a resident on the fire escape and others evacuating. Once inside, they realized the fire apartment’s door was left open, so there was heavy smoke throughout the building.
When they reached the second floor landing, Lt. Zam then heard a woman screaming that her husband was still inside the fire apartment.
He and the other firefighters headed for the door.
“The woman was scared, so I made sure to tell her, ‘I’m going in, everything going to be ok,’” Lt. Zam said.
Inside the apartment, black smoke was down to the floor and he could see an orange glow in the doorway of the kitchen ahead. He thought the victim might be in a rear bedroom, so he went past the fire to look for the victim, even before the 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, so he had to act fast.
“I knew I was on borrowed time without the hose line,” he said.
He checked the back bedroom, but did not find anyone, so he started heading back toward the front of the apartment when he heard a cough. He then noticed another bedroom and found a man sitting on the bed, near the window.
The officer 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 was in his 60s or 70s, that everything would be ok, and started moving the man toward the door.
When he got about 10 feet from the exit, firefighters from Ladder 109 came in the apartment. Firefighter Mike Guidera from Ladder 109 helped remove the victim to the hallway. There, Firefighter Christopher Lorenzo, Ladder 109, took over for Lt. Zam and brought the victim to a lower floor.
At that moment, Firefighters from Engine 242 had the hose line ready.
“It was beautiful to see that hose line with all that fire,” he said.
Lt. Zam joined them to help extinguish the fire as the members of Ladder 109 finished searching the apartment.
FDNY EMTs Bryan Hoyos and James Hoffman treated the patient in the building, to keep the victim warm in the extreme cold. He was transported to Lutheran Hospital in stable condition.
“The EMTs were so professional,” Lt. Zam said. “It was really nice teamwork.”
He 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.”