When the first fire trucks pulled up to 50 Sickles Avenue this afternoon, the front yard was filled with escaped occupants reporting smoke in the building.
Conditions Change In an Instant
At first, the sixth floor hallway was relatively clear, but as soon as firefighters forced open the apartment door, heavy smoke began pouring out from floor to ceiling. After a brief search, crews found a kitchen fire that was just beginning to spread into the next room, and quickly stopped it in its tracks.
At 9 stories, 50 Sickles Ave is considered a high-rise, presenting unique firefighting challenges. For example, fires on upper floors are out of the reach of fire department ladders complicating rescue. Luckily, everything went well today!
Several injured occupants, at least one reported to be critical, had to be cut out of their cars with the “Jaws of Life” last night after being trapped by a terrible car accident on Lincoln Avenue. Multiple ambulances raced to the scene, rushing the victims to the hospital after they were stabilized and freed from their vehicles by New Rochelle Firefighters.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Five people were injured, one very seriously, in a violent collission between two cars in front of 281 Lincoln Avenue in New Rochelle earlier this evening. One person, described by paramedics on scene as “unresponsive”, was taken to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.
Memorial Day is a special day for firefighters. Although we fight a different enemy, we understand all too well what it means to lose lives on the battlefield. Many of us also served in the military before joining the department.
It is a privilege to honor our fallen soldiers each year by participating in the ceremony at Memorial Plaza.
The last few years, we’ve had the special honor of supporting the Marines taking off and landing at Glen Island.
After hearing that people were trapped, the crew of Ladder 12 could not wait for the protection of a fire hose. Two firefighters raced alone against a river of terrified fleeing residents up to the third floor and crawled deep into the burning apartment.
“When we got to the bedroom, the fire was right there rolling out over our heads”, reported one of those first members inside.
While his partner searched for victims, he made a stand at the bedroom door so that fire would not overtake them. “I was hitting it with the [extinguisher], holding it back”, he explained. After searching the raging bedroom, they closed the door. The reason was simple: “fire was coming”.
Luckily the occupants were already out. And then, a very welcome sound – Engine 22 bleeding the air out of their fire hose, ready to enter the apartment and put out the fire. And that they did. A short time later, the flames that had been fiercely blowing into the street and up the side of the building out of several windows were reduced to smoldering debris.
Residents evacuated on Centre Avenue NEW ROCHELLE – Residents were forced into the cold early Wednesday morning after a fire broke out in their apartment building. Everyone was evacuated from the four-story building at 77 Centre Ave. after flames tore through an apartment around 5 a.m., New Rochelle police said.
During the second-biggest area snow storm in recorded history, Engine 22’s tire chains rattled down snow-blanketed Union Ave. The heavy rig sprayed a wake of slush onto powdery piles, the tips of mirrors the only clue to the vehicles buried beneath. From several blocks away, a large plume of smoke could already be seen pouring from around the corner, whipped by winds which peaked near 50 miles per hour. This was it – Probationary Firefighter Chris Tortorella’s first chance to test his skills…
Months earlier, Chris had been a successful carpenter, supervising six men as a foreman. Although committed to his dream of becoming a firefighter, he had two young children to support. It is never easy to earn a spot in the fire department, but suffering from dyslexia meant Chris had to study twice as hard as everyone else for the three entrance exams he took over ten years. And then the letter arrived from the New Rochelle Fire Department. “It was a dream come true. It was surreal – nine years and it was finally there”. But it seemed crazy to leave a stable job with a newborn son and daughter just starting preschool. “When my wife first saw how much I was going to be paid, she said, ‘I don’t think you can do this,” recalled Chris.
Luckily, he comes from a firefighter family. His relatives reassured the couple that their sacrifice would eventually pay off, and they decided to take the chance together. Chris remembered, “My wife has always been supportive. She works full time and really helped me out by taking care of the kids while I was in the academy”.
Back to the storm…
As the corner neared, flames were revealed roaring well overhead, engulfing the front end of a car. “I saw the smoke and really just tried to rely on my training”. Guided by his experienced crew, Chris yanked the hose down from the back of the fire engine, and dragged it through a waist-high snow bank and down the sidewalk. Just as he was trained, he cracked the nozzle open and placed it under his knee so he could control the arriving water pressure. Then he placed his helmet between his knees as he put on his air mask. While this fire was straightforward, these small skills, repeated at every fire, may one day save a firefighter’s life. Once the members of Ladder 12 had pushed past and created access to the vehicle, Chris and his crew quickly advanced and extinguished the fire, protecting the cars parked closely on both sides of the tight street. While the true test of a new firefighter is his first interior building fire, any fire helps to get the jitters out. “You want to get your first fire over with,” Chris confirmed. And this fire ended with the sweetest reward for a new firefighter, a casual “nice job” from a senior firefighter. “It meant a lot”.
NEW ROCHELLE — 75 years ago today, Gertrude O’Dell collapsed to the ground as Fire Chief Oscar Grab informed her that her husband had died in the line of duty. Fireman Oliver C. O’Dell was killed “almost instantly” after landing on the sidewalk on his head when his 20-foot ladder slid from the ice-coated sidewalk in front of the Home Made Bakery at 351 North Ave. Unwilling to wait for an ambulance, his brothers raced him to New Rochelle Hospital in the Chief’s car, but he died eight minutes later, leaving his two young daughters, Dolores and Ellen, without their father.
The City Mourned
“The City is losing a fine, upright citizen and also an important member of our nationally recognized Fire Department. His last act was in line of duty in behalf of our City and its citizens. I personally mourn his loss, the department must mourn a fine comrade and the City a heroic servant. This is a sample of the risk of life and limb daily faced by some of our workers” – Mayor Stanley W. Church
O’Dell was born in New Rochelle on March 31st, 1898. Just before his 23rd birthday, he was appointed New Rochelle Fireman #50, serving faithfully for almost 20 years. He lived with his wife and two daughters at 34 Pratt St.
O’Dell was assigned along with fellow Fireman Peter Blaney to open roof vents for ventilation of the cockloft. After their task had been completed, the two men began their descent down the ladder with Fireman Blaney going first and then O’Dell. Fireman O’Dell had one foot on the top rung when he began to swing his other foot around where he struck a guy wire that supported an old sign on the top of the building causing him to fall to the sidewalk on his head and fracturing his skull.
On the corner of Lawn Ave. & North Ave., it was Huguenot Camera, and more recently the old Del Pontes italian restaurant, before becoming Metro Pizza.
Research by Firefighter R.J. Richards; assisted by Firefighter John Bollettieri
It’s our great pleasure to support these talented athletes.
Our varsity cheerleaders invited us to their practice today. We had a great time meeting everyone! Besides being very cool, it’s obvious that these young women are passionately committed to their sport. We were surprised to find that unlike most sports they compete year round.
VALHALLA, NY, Oct. 29, 2015 — As costumed New Rochelle Firefighters made their way through the hallways of the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, parents’ tense expressions gave way to smiles, as the young patients forgot their surroundings for a few hours and went “trick or treating” like any other kids. Before long, we had a crew of little helpers in tow, transforming the place into a Halloween celebration.
“As a parent, the worst thing in the world is seeing your kid hurt or sick. Being able to bring a smile to the parents, who are smiling because their kid gets a kick out of our costumes man that’s great,” said New Rochelle Fire Captain Andrew Sandor.
For the 13th year, this annual tradition has brought families to their feet laughing, smiling and snapping photos that they can’t wait to share. One grandfather explained:
“I have a granddaughter in there with the biggest smile ear to ear and that means the world to us! So, thank you for all that you’re doing!”
Department officials say city’s development and expansion has led to upsurge in calls
New Rochelle’s “great financial condition” marks the end of the decades of economic hardship that have left our staffing far below safe levels. To kick off the march toward our bright future, let’s restore industry standard minimum staffing as soon as possible, and start the conversation about how to go from there to safely protect the special firefighting hazards and increased population of the downtown development.
Prosperous and Safe: That's Our Vision for New Rochelle's Future