FDNY Captain Paul Miller knew he had to act quickly when he got word that 77-year-old Panta Getejanc was still inside his burning Glendale home.
Getejanc’s son, also named Panta, returned to their two-family home on January 25 around midnight. He didn’t fall sleep right away, and just before 2 a.m. heard his mother scream from upstairs, “Fire!”
“I ran upstairs,” he said. “I got the fire extinguisher, I tried to put it out. I put it out for a little while, but the fire burst back in my face.”
When the younger Getejanc realized he could not put out the flames on his own, he called for his mother and father to come downstairs, but only his mother followed. They called 9-1-1, and the Fire Department, only a few blocks away, responded within minutes.
Miller happened to be filling in at the Glendale firehouse that night. When they got the call and landed on site, Getejanc told the firefighters that his father was still inside.
“That’s when I headed up,” said Miller.
The fire, which originated in the upstairs bedroom, had spread throughout the apartment. Miller first searched the flame-engulfed bedroom, then moved on to search the remainder of the floor. He found the senior Getejanc in the living room, towards the rear of the apartment.
“I ran my hand over him, and he let out a slight groan,” said Miller. Getejanc was slightly conscious, but not coherent, he added.
During his search on the cold winter night, Miller got word from his team that all of the surrounding hydrants were frozen. They were going to have to use booster water – the extra supply that they carry on fire trucks.
“At that time, I just realized I had him and had to get him out of there quickly,” he said.
With that, Miller had to travel back through the flames towards the entrance of the apartment with Getejanc at his side. When he got to the stairs, other firefighters were coming up to retrieve Getejanc.
“Everything that could go wrong was going wrong, but the guys did a great job,” said Miller.
Since the night of the fire, Getejanc has been in the hospital. He has had two skin graft surgeries as a result of the burns. He recently contracted pneumonia and was put on a respirator, but as of Monday, March 25, was taken off it.
His son, who visits him most days, said he is doing “much better.”
Miller was named a Daily News Hero of the Month for March, and said he is “very grateful” that he was able to get Getejanc out of the fire.
“You always hope they make a full recovery,” he said. “I’m hopeful that one day I get a chance to meet him, and I hope the best for him and his family.”
The younger Getejanc has been spending days in the finished basement of their Glendale home, which still has no second floor following the fire. His insurance company secured an apartment nearby for him and his family to stay in until repairs are made. He said he would like to go and see the team who saved his father’s life.
“Maybe my wife will bake something for them,” he said, laughing.