March 3, 2002

William Lake: Tough Guy or Pussycat?

When Billy Lake was 7 years old and it was time for dinner, his mother, Helen, always knew where to find him: at the firehouse two blocks away, where Billy would peer at the trucks and chat with the men.

"He loved to be over there," Mrs. Lake said.

On Sept. 10, Firefighter William Lake, 44, celebrated 20 years with the Fire Department. To mark the occasion, another firefighter from his company, Rescue 2, in Brooklyn, whipped up a dinner of roast beef, shrimp and chocolate mousse for everyone on duty.

Firefighter Lake had all the trappings of a tough guy: a Rescue 2 tattoo, a Harley- Davidson motorcycle, hands terribly chapped from the time he dug through concrete to rescue two laborers from a collapse at a construction site.

"If he was in the military, he'd be a marine," said Firefighter Scott Stromer, a friend. "If he was a hockey player, he'd be the goalie."

But to really know Firefighter Lake was to know his tender side: to see him dote on his son, Kyler, 7, his mother and his cat, Boxy.

"A tough guy with a cat?" Firefighter Stromer asked. "Think about it."