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Matthew E. Barnes

Firefighter Matthew E. Barnes
Ladder Company 25

March 11, 1999, 1250 hours, Box 88-1323, 2823 Broadway, Manhattan

Appointed to the FDNY on March 25, 1990. Originally assigned to Ladder 25. Member of the Emerald Society. Cited once previously for bravery and was the Daily News Hero of the Month in April 1999. Cousin, Randy Boucher, works in E-309. Resides in Monroe with wife, Susan, and their children, Matthew, 10, Jesse, 9, and Thomas.

After the fierce fighting at Iwo Jima, the tiny island in the Pacific Ocean, which was a key battle in World War II, Admiral Nimitz of the U.S. Navy said about the American soldiers, “uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Those words also can be applied to all the FDNY members who operated at the eight-alarm fire at Box 88-1323, 300 West 109th Street and 2823 Broadway in Manhattan, on March 11, 1999.
     One of the many members who lived up to the highest traditions of the FDNY was FF Matthew E. Barnes of Ladder Co. 25. At 1250 hours, 25 Truck, with FF Barnes as the roof man, was assigned on the second alarm to respond to the growing fire in the 11-story, multiple dwelling. The first, second and third floors were involved in fire. As the rig pulled out of quarters and made the turn up Broadway, a large cloud of smoke was seen rising from the burning residential building. As Ladder 25 approached the scene, the members could see a large body of flame leaping from the roof and fire showing out several windows on the top floor.
     Upon arrival, Captain John P. Stark, covering in 25 Truck for the day, and the other members of the forcible entry team reported to the Command Post for their assignment. At the same time, FF Thomas Healy, the chauffeur, and FF Stephen M. Johnson, the outside vent man, positioned the aerial ladder on the Broadway (exposure 2) side of the building.
     FF Barnes noticed a woman frantically waving from a window on the ninth floor. He shouted to the woman to stay where she was as he sized uFF Matt Barnes brings precious cargo down the aerial ladder to waiting arms of EMS personnel.p the situation. He noticed that 40 Truck was parked directly below the window where Linda Kalodner was calling for help. FF Johnson lowered the tormentors, raised the 100-foot aerial ladder to the ninth floor and FF Barnes jumped up to the turntable and ascended the ladder.
     Simultaneously, Captain Stark transmitted an urgent message via the handie-talkie, notifying the units operating on the inside that FF Barnes was attempting to reach Mrs. Kalodner from the outside. The captain was informed that FDNY members had not yet reached the ninth floor. The rapidly escalating fire now had grown to three alarms.
      Normally, a 100-foot aerial ladder should reach the ninth floor of a building. However, the fire building was not ordinary. Each story in the building was taller than normal because of the high ceilings in each apartment. When the ladder was fully extended, it still came up about five feet short of the ninth-floor windowsill and the distraught Mrs. Kalodner, who was in Apartment 9-R.
     FF Barnes’ job was made even more difficult by the cornice that extended from the facade between the eighth and ninth floors. The cornice created a ledge at the ninth floor, which blocked the tip of the aerial ladder and made it just about impossible to gain access to the ninth floor. Additionally, the ledge made it necessary to leave the ladder tip about one foot from the building, permitting the ladder to sway in the stiff breeze without any support. As FF Barnes rapidly made his way up the ladder, Mrs. Kalodner was holding an infant out the window. He pleaded with Mrs. Kalodner to bring the baby back into the window and wait to be rescued by firefighters who would try to reach them through the interior. Mrs. Kalodner shouted back to FF Barnes that the apartment next to hers was on fire, the hallway was hot and full of smoke and there were no firefighters on the floor.
     She then held six-week-old Jacob out the window and insisted that FF Barnes take him to safety. At this point, FF Barnes decided it would be better to take the infant than to leave him in the hot apartment in the care of his distraught and emotional mother.
     FF Barnes hooked his life belt to the top of the ladder, reached out across the five-foot gap between the ladder and the windowsill, timed it just right as the ladder was swaying in the strong wind and grabbed little Jacob. As he turned to make his way down the ladder, Mrs. Kalodner shouted, "Hurry back. His twin sister has to go down next." In his Report of Meritorious Act, Captain Stark wrote about FF Barnes: "He was in extreme danger as the aerial ladder was at its maximum extension, pointed straight up, in an unsupported position. FF Barnes’ agility and strength were being severely tested."
     FF Barnes passed the first baby to FF Johnson, who was behind him on the ladder and FF Johnson began the descent to the turntable. FF Barnes made the long, steep climb up the swaying, bouncing ladder, where upon reaching the tip, he again hooked his life belt to the top rung. Mrs. Kalodner then handed off six-week-old Isabella to FF Barnes. After much unofficial recognition, including being named Hero of the Month by the New York Daily News, FF Barnes is honored by the FDNY today.--NG

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