On a typical call, a firefighter is covered from head to toe in layers of heavy fire-retardant gear, working alongside a team that runs into burning buildings while others are running out. For FDNY firefighter John Curley, having no gear and no backup wasn’t enough to stop him from doing his job.
On Nov. 10, 2012 at approximately 7:40 a.m., just two weeks after Hurricane Sandy swept through the Bellmore area, John received a text alert from the local Fire Department for a house fire with a possible victim trapped inside. He was headed to Connecticut with his son when he strayed from his route towards the building’s address. Upon arriving at the scene, he found the two-story home engulfed in flames. Without a second thought, John parked his car and ran towards it.
Frantically trying to figure out what to do, 61-year-old Richard Ross indicated his mother was still in her bedroom on the second floor. Together, they jerry-rigged file cabinets to support the ladder they needed to reach the window and John attempted to enter. He ripped the screen, broke the window and crawled in to find the victim lying unconscious on the floor. The blaze had already burned off part of the bedroom door and the room was filled with black smoke.
“I lifted her by her torso and carried her onto the bed which was just next to the window. At that time I went to the window for air and yelled to my son and a Bellmore Fire Chief who just arrived that I would need help.”
He was partway through the rescue when he realized he was trapped on the second floor without a stable exit.
“I pulled the woman’s legs out of the window and placed her across the [air conditioning] unit. I then rolled her off the AC and positioned her across my arms.”
John climbed over the victim as he descended back down the ladder; but the ladder began to fall backwards. With the help of the Fire Chief and a last-second reach for the air conditioning unit, John made it back down to the filing cabinet. He completed the rescue by handing the woman to his son, the Fire Chief and two police officers who had arrived on the scene.
After being treated at a local hospital for lacerations and minor burns, John had the opportunity to meet the women he rescued, 93-year-old Evelyn Ross.
As a former police officer and a firefighter for more than 22 years, John says, “This has been the most rewarding experience not only in my career, but my life.”
For his heroism, the New York Islanders and TD Bank honored the 43-year-old firefighter as their Hometown Hero for February. He was recognized on the scoreboard at Nassau Coliseum and received an award from Eric Fishon, VP of Marketing at TD Bank. on the Feb. 26 home game against the Boston Bruins.
“The Hometown Hero program gives us the opportunity to recognize people in the community for the heroic 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. They are our hometown heroes, regular people doing really great things and John Curley is the definition of that.”