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PR- 246-10
June 2, 2010


Department’s Prestigious James Gordon Bennett Medal Awarded to Member of Ladder 142 for Second Year in a Row, Achievement Has Not Occurred Since 1905

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano today presided over the annual Fire Department Medal Day Ceremony. The annual event honored those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, displaying courage and skill under the most extreme conditions to help save lives. This year, 26 Firefighters, 11 Fire Officers, one Fire Marshal Task Force, two Fire Companies, one Marine Company, two Emergency Medical Technicians, five Paramedics, five EMS Officers and one Medical Director received medals at a ceremony held at City Hall.

“While the bar is set very high for receiving the awards we’re presenting today, the reality is acts of courage are part of the everyday job description for our firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The medals being presented today offer inspiring examples of heroic teamwork in action – every individual example of bravery we’re celebrating today was a part of a team effort.”

“Medal Day is one of the most important days on the FDNY’s calendar because it gives us the chance to truly honor these heroes with the recognition they deserve,” Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano said. “Our firefighters and EMS members do their jobs because, for them, it is truly a calling.  There is no more meaningful task in this world than saving someone’s life.  The satisfaction you gain from that is tremendous.  This is our chance to thank and recognize them for the tremendous work they do, putting their lives on the line for the people of our city every day.”

For the second year in a row, the Department’s prestigious James Gordon Bennett Medal was awarded to a member of the same unit – an achievement that has not occurred at FDNY since 1905. This year’s recipient is Firefighter Michael Czech Jr. of Ladder Company 142, who rescued two children and a 28-year-old woman on two different floors, despite black smoke and heavy heat, during a fire at 97-12 93rd Street in Queens on January 27, 2009. Last year’s winner was Firefighter Anthony M. Romano – also of Ladder Company 142 – who rescued a fellow firefighter in February 2008. The January 2009 fire in fact produced three of this year’s medal winners.  Lieutenant Michael Fitall of Ladder Company 143 was honored with the Thomas A. Kenny Memorial Medal for rescuing a woman there and Firefighter Edward Rissland of Ladder Company 142 received the Thomas F. Dougherty Medal for saving a 10-year-old boy at the same fire.

The Jack Pintchik Medal was given to Emergency Medical Technicians Andrew Gabor and Claudia Rugel of Station 32 for saving the lives of five residents, including a young child, from dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide at 1165 Fulton Street in Brooklyn on September 18, 2009. Within seconds of entering the building, the EMT’s carbon monoxide monitors went off, registering 150 parts per million. Although their dispatcher advised them to leave the building and wait for fire resources (anything over 35 parts per million is considered dangerous), the two EMTs continued on and found a 40-year-old man slumped over inside his apartment. While taking him out of the apartment, they noticed four other people, including a toddler, exhibiting symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and worked to evacuate all residents from the building.  Once outside, EMTs Gabor and Rugel helped evaluate all of the residents. When firefighters arrived on scene, soon after found that carbon monoxide levels had doubled, reaching the very dangerous level of 300 parts per million.

Firefighter Giovanni Martinez of Ladder Company 124 received the Walter Scott Medal for his heroic actions during a fire at 376 Palmetto Street in Brooklyn on March 24, 2009. With fire spewing dense black smoke from the second and third floors, Firefighter Martinez entered the tower ladder bucket and, hearing someone was in the top window, maneuvered it upward. Removing a child guard from the window despite the heat and smoke, he helped a man and a pregnant woman out of the window and into the bucket. Firefighter Martinez asked if anyone was still inside, and they told him that another person who tried to exit down the stairs could be trapped. He told them to stay low in the bucket as he removed the entire window and frame, entered the room and crawled in. Crawling on the floor after being driven to the floor by intense heat, he found a burned, semi-conscious man on the floor.  He dragged the man back toward the window and into the bucket, risking his own life to save three others that day.

The World Trade Center Memorial Medal, given for the first time in the history of the Department last year, was this year given to members of Marine Company 1 for their work rescuing passengers of US Airways Flight 1549, when it landed in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009. Captain Richard Johnson, Lieutenant Thomas Piambino, Pilot Robert Spadaro, Marine Engineers Patrick Astegher and Lenwill Burmester, Wiper John Steinhardt and Firefighters John Rizzo and Thomas Sullivan were on duty that day, when they were notified of a plane in the river and responded on two boats, Marine 1 and the smaller Marine 1 Alpha. As Marine 1 Alpha approached the plane, they found people crowded onto the left wing. Captain Johnson and Firefighter Sullivan helped them onboard and ferried them to safety at the West 43rd Street pier.  Meanwhile, members on board Marine 1 pulled up alongside the aircraft and deployed mooring lines around sections of the plane to secure it while they performed a search to make sure no one was trapped onboard. They then helped move the aircraft to a cove in Battery Park City.

A total of 37 medals were awarded to firefighters and 13 medals to EMS members for their courageous actions during the previous year. FDNY members were honored with medals endowed by a variety of nonprofit organizations and other supporters of the Fire Department.


Stu Loeser / Jason Post   (212) 788-2958

Francis X. Gribbon (FDNY)   (718) 999-2056

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