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Robert McGrath

Firefighter Robert McGrath
Ladder Company 33

April 28, 1999, 1745 hours, Box 862, 51st Street Subway Station, Manhattan

Appointed to the FDNY on September 24, 1977. Former member of Engine 40 and Ladders 43 and 49. Member of the Emerald and Holy Name Societies, Company Officers Association, 3rd Division Delegate and Administrator of the 3rd Division Collation Fund. Cited for bravery on seven previous occasions. Daily News Hero of the Month for October 1999. Received Rockland County Medal of Valor April, 2000. Attended Manhattan College. Resides in Pearl River with his wife, Mary, and their children, Fred, 21, Lauren, 18, and Jennifer, 12.

Firefighting is a team operation and when the whole team works together, lives can be saved that otherwise might be lost. As a member of Ladder 33 in the Bronx, FF Robert McGrath is part of a very experienced firefighting team. On the afternoon of October 16, 1999, this team went into action at an all-hands fire and saved a family trapped above the roaring inferno.
      Bronx Box 3336 was transmitted at 1225 hours with a report of a fire at 2315 Andrews Avenue. Ladder 33 arrived at the address second-due as heavy smoke poured from the fourth- and fifth-floor windows of a six-story, non-fireproof multiple dwelling.
      Lieutenant Halpin and the forcible entry team entered the building and began to make their way to the fifth floor to search the floor above the fire. FF McGrath was assigned the outside vent position and he went right to work on the front fire escape, assisting civilians who were self-evacuating from the floors below the fire.
      As important as it was to help prevent injuries to the panicked tenants, the vast number of people evacuating the building delayed FF McGrath and the Ladder 59 outside vent man from getting to their assigned positions. By the time FF McGrath reached the fourth floor, the black, acrid smoke had turned to flames, licking out onto the fire escape.
      FF McGrath heard Lieutenant Halpin radio that he had an adult and two small children in a very dangerous situation on the fifth floor. The firefighter knew he had to get to the floor above the flames. FF McGrath couldn’t pass on the fire escape and turned to another firefighter for help. He radioed FF Clifford Thomson, Ladder 33’s chauffeur, to pick him up in the tower ladder basket and transport him to the floor above.
     As the bucket was reaching the window, FF McGrath heard a 10-45 signal transmitted by Lieutenant Halpin. He quickly vented and entered the window to assist his lieutenant. The heavy smoke and heat forced him to crawl as he followed the sound of the lieutenant’s voice toward the kitchen.
     Realizing that they all couldn’t leave via the bucket, Lieutenant Halpin instructed FF McGrath to take one-and-a-half-year-old Virgilio Ruiz, while he removed the other two victims via the interior stairs. FF McGrath selflessly shared his own mask to give lifesaving air to the young victim.
     For the return to the bucket, FF McGrath relied on FF Thomson’s voice to guide him back to safety. Sharing the mask made breathing more difficult for FF MFF Robert McGrath dons his mask prior to making entry into well-involved apartment.cGrath, but he was unsure how much damage already had been done to the child’s lungs. Once rescuer and victim were in the bucket, FF Thomson swung it down to the ground to waiting EMS workers. When FF McGrath handed the child over, EMS personnel stabilized his condition and transported him to Jacobi Hospital where he was treated for smoke inhalation.
     If FF McGrath and the other members of Ladder 33 had not plucked young Virgilio and his family from their precarious position above the flames, the results could have been catastrophic. For his bravery and great personal risk, the Fire Department, City of New York, is proud to honor FF Robert McGrath today.--JT

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