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PR- 187-13
June 5, 2013


Firefighters and EMS Members Awarded Medals for Brave Acts at Emergency Scenes throughout the City over the Past Year

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano today presided over the annual Fire Department (FDNY) Medal Day Ceremony at the 69th Regiment Armory.  The annual event honors those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, displaying courage and skill under the most extreme conditions to help save lives.  In all, seven Fire Officers, 28 Firefighters, two Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Officers, four paramedics, four Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), one Fire Marshal, and three Fire Companies were awarded medals for their heroic acts.

“Each year at this time, we pay tribute to the bravest of our Bravest and honor their exceptional acts of valor, exemplifying the finest traditions of the FDNY,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “This year, we take particular note of firefighters and emergency medical services personnel who put themselves in harm’s way to save others during the worst storm in our city’s recorded history: Hurricane Sandy.”

“Every single day, at incidents across the city, FDNY members demonstrate why the Department sets the standard for firefighting, pre-hospital medical care and all hazards response – not just here in New York City, but across the country and throughout the world,” said Commissioner Cassano.  “But no one day in the past year better demonstrated how important the Department is to the people of New York than on October 29, 2012 when Hurricane Sandy struck the City like no storm ever has before.  Every working FDNY member, and many off-duty members, was fully engaged in response to the unprecedented storm, demonstrating again and again why they are rightly called the Bravest.”

This year, the Department’s prestigious James Gordon Bennett Medal was awarded to Lieutenant Thomas Woods of Ladder Company 154, who, while off-duty, rescued 25 people from a rising storm surge and multiple-alarm fire in Belle Harbor, Queens, the night Hurricane Sandy hit New York City.  This is only the third time since 1869, when the FDNY began awarding medals for bravery, that the top honor has gone to an off-duty member.  On October 29, 2012, Lt. Woods and his neighbors were forced to the upper floors of their homes on Beach 130th Street in Queens.  To the south and east of Lt. Woods’ home, a large fire, fueled by winds in excess of 80 miles-per-hour, was quickly spreading from house to house and raining burning embers from the sky.  Over the next several hours, Lt. Woods used a surfboard, a kayak and his own swimming ability and training to rescue and remove his family and neighbors – including young children, seniors and a wheelchair bound adult – from the rapidly moving fire and flooded roadways.

Three Fire Companies were awarded medals for their work during the storm as well.  The World Trade Center Memorial Medal was awarded to Ladder Company 82 on Staten Island.  Ladder 82 operated for six hours, carrying residents to safety through neck-deep flood water strewn with floating debris during Hurricane Sandy.  And for their combined efforts to rescue residents and fight a large, growing fire in Far Rockaway, Queens, Engine Company 268 was awarded the Lieutenant James Curran/New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation Medal and Ladder Company 137 was awarded the Firefighter Thomas R. Elsasser Memorial Medal.  In all, 30 FDNY members were recognized for their work during Hurricane Sandy. 

Fire Commissioner Cassano also announced at the ceremony that more than 7,000 FDNY members – both uniformed and civilian – who worked in the 24-hour period during and immediately after the storm will receive a Sandy Campaign Service Ribbon to recognize their extraordinary work.

Two members of the FDNY Bureau of EMS, EMTs Marilyn Arroyo and Jimmy Guailacela of Station 46, were awarded the highest EMS honor, the Christopher J. Prescott Medal, for their efforts to save three seniors from a trapped car during a flash flood in August, 2012.  EMTs Arroyo and Guailacela had responded to a report of occupants trapped inside a partially submerged vehicle at the Cooper Avenue underpass in Queens.  Upon arrival, EMTs Arroyo and Guailacela found the water continuing to rise over the stuck vehicle.  They quickly scaled a fence, swam to the vehicle, and safely removed all three occupants as the car was completely submerged.  Once all were safely removed from the water, EMTs Arroyo and Guailacela continued patient care, evaluating all three patients to ensure they were in no further medical danger.

Two Probationary Firefighters, Matthew Cook and Thomas Staubitser, were awarded the Lieutenant Kirby McElhearn Medal for their work as FDNY EMTs on March 28, 2012.  That day, EMTs Cook and Staubitser from Station 4 responded to a disoriented driver on James Street in Manhattan.  While attempting to assess the patient, the driver stepped on the gas and sent the vehicle careening towards a crowded intersection.  EMTs Cook and Staubitser broke the driver’s side window and were able to gain control of the vehicle before it struck any pedestrians.  They then continued pre-hospital care of patient before being treated for their own cuts and injuries.

One medal was awarded posthumously to Fire Marshal Martin J. “Woody” McHale of Citywide North Command for his work to successfully bring to prosecution two men charged with attempted murder and arson from a fire in Richmond Hill, Queens.  The medal was accepted by Fire Marshal McHale’s wife, Hope, and his twin boys, Matthew and Ryan.

A total of 45 medals were awarded to Firefighters, EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Marshals for their courageous actions during the previous calendar year.  FDNY members were honored with medals endowed by a variety of nonprofit organizations and other supporters of the Fire Department.


Marc LaVorgna / John J. McCarthy   (212) 788-2958

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


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