Firefighter Matthew E.
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,
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,
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 up
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
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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