FDNY salute to 53 heroes

Medals for risking death to save lives


They ran into burning buildings, dived into frigid waters and doggedly tracked arsonists.

Yesterday, the bravery and dedication of 53 FDNY members were honored at the department's annual awards ceremony.

Saving lives is part of the job, but the 51 firefighters and two marshals recognized at Medal Day went beyond the call of duty, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said.

"This sort of selflessness is not something anyone has the right to routinely expect from others," Scoppetta told a crowd gathered at the steps of City Hall.

"But what's clear is that in certain moments, in the midst of roaring flames and heavy smoke, members of this department always forge on, no matter what the odds," he added.

Saving an unconscious comrade seconds before a roof collapsed in a March 4, 2003, fire at a Brooklyn store earned Firefighter James Mills the James Gordon Bennett Medal, the FDNY's top distinction.

Mills, an 11-year veteran assigned to Ladder 176 in Broadway Junction, crawled 80 feet into the smoke-choked basement of a Pitkin Ave. store to pull Robert Petrarca to safety.

"I ran out of air," said Petrarca, of Ladder 120 in Brownsville. "I knew I was in the basement somewhere but I couldn't find any doors; I couldn't find a way out."

Other medal winners included:

Firefighter Brian Fox of Ladder 44 in the Bronx, who on July 19, 2003, plucked an unconscious and badly burned 7-month-old girl from a blazing Highbridge flat, shielding her body from the intense heat as he carried her to safety. Fox then directed firefighters to the room where the baby's mother and grandmother were trapped.

Firefighter Cosmo DiOrio of Rescue 1 in Hell's Kitchen, who plunged into the Hudson River in November to save a trapped driver.

Marshal Bernard Santangelo, who broke an arson-for-profit scheme allegedly run by two Brooklyn businessmen.
"Presenting these medals is a tradition that demonstrates the enormous gratitude New Yorkers feel toward our firefighters," Mayor Bloomberg said.

Originally published on June 3, 2004


Brooklyn firefighter James Mills joined by his children Madison, Taylor and Griffin after he received the James Gordon Bennett medal.