Firefighter James Goelz made his first on-the-job rescue when an elderly woman’s Lindenwood apartment became a blazing inferno.
“When we got [to the building] there were people standing outside the apartment,” said Goelz. “When we got to the lobby we could smell something. People said there was something going on. We knew we were going to work that day.”
On Friday, April 6, fire safety officials responded to a call at the Ardsley apartment building, located at 153-25 88th Street.
Alex Alarcon, the Ardsley’s super and a tenant himself, recalled awaking that morning to the frightening sound of banging on his door. Alarcon, who has overseen the apartment complex for the past 22 years, said the male tenant who was knocking exclaimed that there was a fire on the fourth floor of the building.
When he went upstairs, Alarcon said the entire place was black and filled with smoke.
The tenant who alerted him called the fire department. Firefighters from Brooklyn’s Ladder 107 arrived shortly thereafter.
Responding firefighters surveyed the building’s layout, deducing that the fire originated from a unit on the fourth floor. Using a thermal imaging camera, Goelz, along with Lieutenant Gerry Cox and John Bunning, found the source of the blaze. Upon entering the smoke-filled residence, Goelz discovered the elderly, unidentified victim unconscious.
Cox carried the woman downstairs and outside, where he performed CPR on her. Goelz stayed behind to search for more victims. Thankfully, there was no one else in the apartment.
According to Alarcon, there has never been a fire in the Ardsley building before.
Alarcon alleged that the woman, would smoke and fall asleep with her cigarette still lit. He claimed that on several visits to her apartment, he noticed marks on the ground from where she would drop her cigarettes. Alarcon said he urged the tenant not to smoke in bed.
According to the FDNY, fire marshals determined the cause of the blaze to be careless smoking.
Goelz, who has been fighting fires for the past six years, said that regardless of the known danger, people continue to light up in bed.
“It is pretty common,” said Goelz. “It’s surprising that people do it, but they do. It’s not off the wall.”
The local hero is extremely proud of the rescue, especially the commendable job done by his fellow firefighters.
“It felt good,” said Goelz. “We did what we were supposed to do. Everyone did a good job and we really worked together. Everything went really clean. She’s still fighting for her life and that’s what it’s all about. You don’t get that opportunity all the time.”