On April 20th, 2004, and with only one year on the job, Firefighter Christopher Sweeney accomplished what is most certainly the most time-honored and respected task that firefighters are known and respected for: the rescue of a baby from a burning building.
At 2237 hours, Engine 73 and Ladder 17 were turned out for a reported structure fire with children trapped on the third floor at 417 East 146th Street. As they arrived at the box, fire was showing from the third floor windows and occupants were screaming that two infants were trapped there. Although assigned to E-73, Firefighter Sweeney was detailed that day to Ladder 17 as the Irons firefighter. He and Firefighter William Greenberg teamed up with Lt. John Grasso as a forcible entry team and made their way up the narrow stairs to the third floor to conduct a primary search. As they reached the half-landing below the third floor they encountered heavy smoke and high heat, and saw that fire had burned through a front bedroom door above them to their left and had extended from the bedroom across the ceiling down a hall to a rear bedroom. As Lt. Grasso and Firefighter Greenberg pushed up the stairs and then proceeded left towards the front bedroom with the hose line, Firefighter Sweeney advanced to the right towards the rear bedroom. With fire overhead, zero visibility, high heat conditions and without the protection of a hose line, Sweeney proceeded down the hallway into the rear bedroom. Feeling a bed to his left, he swept across the top of the bed and discovered the body of Jeremy Delgado, a one-year-old infant. Firefighter Sweeney picked up the baby and immediately retraced his path back to the stairs, and then down to the street. Once there, after assessing the infant’s vitals and relinquishing his care to EMS, Firefighter Sweeney went back up to the fire floor and continued his duties as a firefighter helping to overhaul the fire apartment.
Reacting to the report of an infant trapped, Firefighter Sweeney, at great personal risk, aggressively searched in conditions of high heat and zero visibility without the protection of a hose line to perform this rescue; actions that are in keeping with the highest traditions of the New York City Fire Department.