Brave Harlem rescue

Firefighters pull woman from burning flat


With the nearest fire hydrant frozen shut, firefighters yesterday rescued a Harlem woman and her cat from a burning apartment while fighting the flames with portable fire extinguishers, officials said.

Ellen Stoken, 61, was found unconscious in the bathtub inside her studio apartment on E.105th St., said Dave Billig, a Fire Department spokesman.

Members of Ladder Co. 43 in Spanish Harlem, nicknamed El Barrio's Bravest, rushed to the10-story apartment building after receiving a 911 call about 2:40 p.m., Billig said.

"I saw smoke coming out ofher apartment," said Miguel Rodriguez, 64, a retired accountant who lives next-door to Stoken. "Me and a neighbor started banging on her door. There was no response. He went and called the Fire Department and I went back into my apartment and banged on the wall."

Lt. Tony Montaruli, 46, and Firefighters Mark Carpiniello, 41; Jerry Suden, 36, and Todd Fredrickson went to the ninth-floor apartment and broke the door.

"There were flames all around us, we couldn't see anything," said Fredrickson, who rescued Stoken as Carpiniello fought back the flames along the rescue path. "We kept her blocked from the flames."

Stoken suffered second- and third-degree burns to 65% of her body and smoke inhalation. She was taken to Weill Cornell Medical Center's burn unit in critical condition, Fire Department officials said.

Firefighters eventually ran a hose from another hydrant and put the fire out in 20 minutes.

The firefighters also rescued Stoken's cat Bubba, whom she adopted nine months ago after finding her abandoned in an alley, Rodriguez said.

Montaruli, a 22-year veteran, said he was proud of the FDNY crew.

"These guys were great," he said. "This is their turn. They learned something and put it to good use. They came through."

Investigators were trying to determine what caused the blaze, but sources said it might have been started by a cigarette.

Originally published on February 4, 2004

Firefighter Todd Fredrickson (3rd from r.), who found woman in burning apartment, is joined by Ladder Co. 43 mates.