“We have a report of trapped occupants – number and location unknown.” These are the kinds of words heard over a radio that will cause any firefighter’s heart to race, and it was the radio transmission received by Ladder 170 on August 15th, 2004 as they responded at 7:01 a.m. to a report of fire at 1350 East 83rd Street in Brooklyn. As they arrived at the location they found heavy smoke pushing from the building, and all hands immediately went to work.
Firefighter Anthony Maiello was assigned to the Outside Vent Man position that morning, and he was confronted right away with a problem: there was no easy way to get to the rear of the building to do his job due to similar attached buildings on either side of the fire building. Finally finding an alleyway a full six buildings away from the fire building, Firefighter Maiello made his way to the rear, and then back across six backyards, each protected by fences 4 – 6 feet high, to the rear of the fire building – all while single-handedly carrying a heavy 24-foot extension ladder as well as all of his fire gear. Upon arrival there, he then forced both a rear wrought-iron security door and a rear-entrance door to the building, again without any assistance. As he gained entry to the building to begin a primary search, Firefighter Maiello was met with extreme conditions of high heat, heavy smoke and zero visibility. Roughly 5 feet in from the door he located an adult female, Marie Nelson, and he transmitted a “10-45” on his radio that a victim had been located. He removed the woman to the rear yard, and placed her in the care of Firefighter Stromstedt of Ladder 174. Firefighter Maiello then re-entered the building and continued his primary search. He then located a second adult male victim, Gustave Stsoren, roughly 15 feet in from the door and removed him to the rear yard, where he was assisted by members of other companies who were by then arriving on scene. At that point, Firefighter Maiello was physically exhausted from his efforts.
In addition to performing his actions under extreme conditions and without the protection of a hose line, Firefighter Maiello operated in a position that was opposite an advancing hose line, greatly increasing his risk to his personal safety. His actions that day went above and beyond the call of duty.