HERO FIREFIGHTER'S LIFESAVING HUNCH

By DYLAN FOLEY


September 13, 2004 -- In early May, firefighter James Walther responded with Ladder Co. 129 to a blaze in Flushing, Queens, where there was a report of a wheelchair-bound man trapped in the building.

Walther was deployed behind the house to check for smoke. While waiting there for his partner to come with a ladder, something clicked when he saw the screened-in back porch.

"I realized this guy was going to be on the first floor," said Walther, 37, a five-year veteran of the Fire Department.

He broke down a door and was confronted with thick smoke and zero visibility.

He crawled into the kitchen on his stomach.

"I realized I was shining the light of my flashlight through the spokes of a wheelchair," Walther recalled.

"I saw a pair of shoes, then legs, then a hand holding a flashlight."

Walther pulled the 90-year-old victim out of the building.

At that point, the elderly man went into respiratory arrest. He was whisked to a hospital