|Steven Carl, center, with Robert and Mary Strafer who he helped save from their burning home on Staten Island.
A firefighter is never truly off the job. So long as there are fires, New York’s bravest will descend on burning buildings, the first to run in as others are running out.
New York City Fireman Steven Carl of Ladder 81 was driving home with his family on Christmas night around 11:45 p.m. when he saw flames bursting out of a home on Atlantic Avenue in Staten Island.
Equipped without any protective gear or tools, Carl still pulled over immediately, jumped out of his car and came to the aid of complete strangers.
“I didn’t even tell my wife,” he said. “I just put the car in park and I ran out leaving the door open.”
Trapped on the second floor balcony of the house were Robert Strafer, 78, and Mary Strafer, 61. They were cut, burned and had nowhere to go as the fire raged beneath them. The front entrance was inaccessible, so Carl improvised using a ladder he found in the backyard.
“The front of the house was fully engulfed by flames,” Carl said. “I was able to find a ladder in the backyard and I put it up and got them down just in time.”
The lack of proper tools almost scuttled the entire rescue effort. This was not a sturdy ladder that a fire truck would have at its disposal; Carl said the ladder looked like it hadn’t been used in years as it sat in the yard.
“It [the ladder] actually fell down,” he said. “The people followed me around into the backyard and some neighbors helped sturdy the ladder for me so I could carry them down.”
Carl was not only able to carry the Strafers down from the balcony, but he also rescued their 20-year-old cat. The couple was taken to the burn unit at Staten Island University Hospital to be treated for burns and smoke inhalation.
The Strafers wanted to thank Carl personally, so they threw him a small ceremony at Staten Island Borough Hall. For his heroism, the New York Islanders and TD Bank chose the 37-year-old firefighter as their TD Bank Hometown Hero for February. They will honor him at the Feb. 24 home game against the New York Rangers.
“When we read Steven’s story, we knew we had to make him our Hometown Hero,” Islanders SVP of Corporate Partnerships and Marketing Justin Johnson said. “Firefighters risk their lives everyday to help people and Steven did so on his day off. On Christmas Day of all days. This man is a true hero.”
TD Bank felt the same way.
“The Hometown Hero program gives us the opportunity to exemplify people in the community for some of the great work that they do,” TD Bank’s Vice President of Suburban New York Marketing Eric Fishon said. “That’s why we initiated this program with the Islanders a few years ago. They are our hometown heroes, regular people doing really great things and Steven Carl is the definition of that.”
Carl is still in a bit of shock over the situation and the resulting attention.
“This is unbelievable,” Carl said. “It’s a great honor. I don’t feel like I did anything special, I just reacted. I saw that they needed help and I am just glad that I was able to help them out.”
A first-class hero, on-call 24/7.