“I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a firefighter The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which the firefighter has to do believe that his is a noble calling."

-Chief Edward F. Croker FDNY circa 1910

Mysterious man in Red Bandana


You have heard many stories about the heroic acts on 9/11, but did you hear about the mysterious man in the red bandana? Welles Crowther was working as an American Equities trader on 9/11/01 at the World Trade Center. Truth be told, the 24 year old wasn't looking forward to a desk job for the rest of his life. He had further dreams, and plenty of time to fulfill them. When he turned 16, Welles joined the Volunteer Fire Service, joining the footsteps of his father at Nyack Empire Hook & Ladder company.

At the age of 6, Welles' father gave him a red bandana which stayed with him through the years. It became his signature trademark, a link between father and son. While playing lacrosse at Boston College, Welles wore his bandana under his helmet. In 1999, he graduated with honors degree in economics, which led to his career at the World Trade Center; his office was on the 104th floor of the South Tower. At 9:03am on September 11th, 2001, United flight 175 struck the South Tower between floors 78 & 85. Welles called his mother at 9:12am and left a calm message assuring his family he was OK. He fought the smoke and flames down to the 78th floor sky lobby, where he found survivors. Crowther left his trading career in his office and his firefighting bloodlines took over. He was ready to do his job, the calling that was sent for him at a young age. In an authoritive voice, he directed ambulatory patients to the A stairway which he previously descended from his office. He used his red bandana to cover his nose and mouth, and was carrying a woman down 15 flights. Welles job wasn't done, knowing the danger his life was in, he put it aside and went back up to rescue more. 

In May, the New York Times published accounts of 9/11 which Welles' parents were reading. 1 account stood out. Judy Wein, a survivor from the South Tower noted a mysterious man in a red bandana coming to the aide of numerous people. His parents knew immediately, they found what their son was doing before he died.

December 15th, 2006, Commissioner Scoppetta and Chief Cassano posthumously named Welles Crowther Honorary Firefighter with the FDNY. Following Welles' death, his family found a partially filled out application to take the test for the FDNY. Knowing it would be a huge pay cut, Welles' still planned to follow his dream. 

Continue reading

Remembering Lt Carpluk Jr & FF Reilly

Sunday August 27th 2006, at 1230hrs, Bronx CO received a telephone alarm reporting a store fire at 1575 Walton Ave. Box 2797 was transmitted. Eng.42 transmitted the 10-75 at 1233hrs, heavy smoke venting from the front of a 99ยข Store, a 1 story class 3(non-fireproof) commercial 45x65. The store suffered severe damage 6 years ago (7/17/00) when it had a 3rd Alarm fire. Since then, it underwent extensive alteration that was not consistent with the architectural plans filed.

The fire originated on the 1st floor rear and quickly extended to the ceiling. Combustible stock ignited the Masonite ceiling which was nailed directly to the bottom of the roof joists. Due to the fire load, a 2nd alarm was quickly transmitted.

21 minutes after the arrival of FDNY units, the failure of a cellar column caused a V-Shaped collapse. This collapse took place without warning. A 3rd alarm was transmitted. 10 members fell into the collapse area. 4 members from Engine 92 were immediately removed by FAST. 6 remaining members were trapped in the collapse. TL-44 Can firefighter was extricated aprox 4 minutes. E-75 B/U Firefighter was extricated aproximately 43 minutes in. TL-44 Officer was extricated approximately 56 minutes. Battalion 17 Chief was extricated approximately 1 hour. Lt Howard Carpluk, E-75 Officer was extricated approximately 1 hour 21 minutes. FF Michael C Reilly, E-75 was extricated approximately 1 hour 41 minutes.

FF Michael C Reilly succumbed to his injuries that day. He was appointed to the FDNY on April 11th, 2006, only on the job for a few months. 

Lt Howard J Carpluk Jr succumbed to his injuries 1 day later, August 28th, 2006. He was appointed to the FDNY August 2nd 1986, promoted to Lieutenant March 6th 1999 assigned to Engine 42. He was working PCOT in Engine 75 for this fire. 

Continue reading

Deutsche Bank Fire

Deutsche Bank Fire

In memory  of FF Joseph Graffagnino, L-5 detailed to E-24 (Posthumously promoted to Lieutenant) and FF Robert Beddia, E-24.

On September 11th, 2001, the Deutsche Bank located at 130 Liberty Street, suffered severe damage from the collapse of the World Trade Center and never reopened for business purpose. August 31st, 2004, Lower Manhattan Development Corp assumed ownership and Asbestos abatement and deconstruction was to take place at different locations within the building. No demolition permit for 130 Liberty was filed or issued, however, a series of alteration permits were filed and issued by NYCDOB. 

On Saturday August 18th, 2007, at 1536hrs, a Telephone Alarm reporting a fire on the scaffolding at 88 Greenwich Street, Box 0047 was transmitted. Initially 2 Engines, 2 Trucks and the Battalion were assigned, but due to subsequent numerous calls, Manhattan Dispatch filled out the assignment to 4 Engines, 2 Trucks, Rescue, Squad, Battalion & HazMat 1 (E-10, E-4, E-6, E-7, L-10, TL-15, Bn-1, Rescue 1, Squad 18). 10 Truck officer transmitted the 10-75 for heavy smoke from the upper floors of the Deutsche Bank with the corrected address of 130 Liberty Street. At 1541hrs, 10 Truck upgraded the box to a 2nd Alarm for fire through the skin of the high rise. At 1547hrs, Battalion 1 transmitted the 10-76(HiRise Commercial fire). Size up was 26 story hi-rise office building182x182 occupying 1 city block and as previously mentioned, undergoing asbestos abatement & demolition. The building was built in 1974, 38 stories tall prior to demolition. All interior elevators were out of service & exterior construction elevators were used to gain access to upper floors. The standpipe was reported by construction workers to be a 'dry system', however when fed from the street, water did not reach the fire floor. It was found that a section was missing in the sub level A. 

The 1st hoseline had to be stretched up the exterior of the building. It took 67 minutes from the initial transmission of alarm until a charged hoseline was in position on the 15th floor manned by Engine 24. The delay in water allowed the fire to extend from the 17th floor to the top 26th floor, also downward to the 16th, 15th, 14th, 12th & 5th floors. 

FF Graffagnino was found unconscious on the 14th floor at 1701hrs. He was removed to Downtown Beekman Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. FF Beddia was found unconscious on the 14th floor at 1710hrs. He was also removed to Downtown Beekman Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

FDNY BFI determined the fire to have been started by careless discard of smoking material on the southside of the 17th floor in the decontamination area. 

The following building conditions contributed to the death of the 2 firefighters:

The sprinkler system required by code was out of service.

The standpipe system required by code was out of service.

The means of egress (A & B Stairways) required by code were blocked by sealed wooden platforms that prevented members from dropping down below the fire.

The Stairway enclosures required by code had either been compomised or removed at several locations.


1536hrs: Phone Alarm Recieved

1537hrs: Box 0047 transmitted:

1540hrs: 10 Truck transmitted 10-75 for heavy smoke from upper floors

1541hrs: 10 Truck transmitted 2nd Alarm for heavy fire through the skin.

1541hrs: 10 Engine officer orders ECC to supply siamese on Albany St. This stretch took aprox 15 minutes due to distance around construction trailers.

1542hrs: 10 Truck reports fire on multiple floors and scaffolding, units to use caution.

1544hrs: 10 Engine enters elevator operated by Construction Elevator operator. Operator informs the boss the standpipe was dry. Upon arrival to 15th floor, conditions were clear. E-10 officer noted B stairs there was no outlet & 16th floor was blocked off by wooden platform sealed in plastic. He dropped down to the 14th floor & again, couldn't find an outlet.

1547hrs: Battalion 1 arrived, transmitted the 10-76.

1547hrs: Squad 18, Engine 6 & Rescue 1 arrive. Engine 6 and Squad 18 assist Engine 10 ECC stretching to the siamese.

1548hrs: Engine 10 contacted Ladder 10 looking for saws to get access to the sealed wooden platforms. Ladder 10, 15 & Engine 7 ascend in the other contruction elevator. Ladder 8 arrived & was ordered to bring saws to the 15th floor.

1548hrs: Engine 10 observed fire started to drop to the 15th floor decon area. He asked his ECC status of the siamese, which he was still having trouble reaching.

1548hrs: Box 9031 & 9032 transmitted, bringing in Brooklyn units to lower Manhattan.

1559hrs: Engine 10 ECC advised he was supplying water to the standpipe system. No water reached the 15th floor. (It was later discovered a section of this standpipe was missing.)

1601hrs: Both A & B stairway is now filled with smoke. 

1604hrs; 10 Truck reported "We gained entry to the 16 floor. Search Rope is being deployed. The search is going slow due to the fact that we may have holes in the floor. I do not believe that the fire is on 16. It may be on the 17th." 

1607hrs: Engine 4 officer made a transmission to Battalion 1 that they may  need to drop a line down the exterior of the building. 

1607hrs: Rescue transmitting to Battalion 2 "This is Rescue 1, We got up 2 floors above where I saw you. I believe it's 17. We could hear a good body of fire crackling up here. Lotta heat, the camera is showing hot. I don't see any actual flaming but we hear it. It's basically right at the stairway. No line up here yet. There are lots of holes in the floor right by the stairway so tell the guys to be careful".

1612hrs: Squad 18 asked for permission to drop a line down from the 15th floor. He was ordered to stand by as Command assumed the issue with the standpipe would be resolved soon.

1612hrs: Engines 4, 6 & 24 connected their roll ups preparing to drop it down the exterior.

1613hrs: Engine 33 ECC observed water cascading into sub level A (the 1st to notice a possible break in the standpipe)

1613hrs: Visibility dropped to near zero on the 15th floor, described by numerous members as a curtain of black smoke falling rapidly. Construction debris & deteriorating fire condition impeded numerous members from exiting to a safe area. Some members became disoriented & were seperated from their unit. (This is 36 minutes after the initial alarm transmission).

Between 1614hrs & 1717hrs, 14 MAYDAY transmissions & 19 URGENT transmissions were recorded.

1614hrs: Engine 10 MAYDAY "asssist us. It's banked down and starting to get hot".  Engine 10 & 7 were attempting to exit the 15th floor & unable to locate stairway B.  Engine 10 officer decided to head to stairway A, he felt heat in front and behind him. Rescue 2 was ordered to address this MAYDAY.

1617hrs: Engine 10 Nozzle became seperated from Engine 10. He transmitted a MAYDAY. 3 seperate MAYDAY's were transmitted within a 2 minute 36 second time frame.

In the chaos, members were attempting to retreat to a safe area. The line was lowered via exterior but they needed to add more hose to the tip. Engine 24 members split up as they were attempting to fix this issue. Engine 24 officer was eventually assisted to safety, exhausted & out of air. FF Beddia told E-24 back-up that he was going to drop down to the 14th floor. E-24 Back-up had no further contact with FF Beddia. When E-24 Back-up reached the 14th floor landing, he encountered FF Graffagnino who was gasping. He attempted to give Graffagnino his facepiece for air, but immediately felt the effects of the acrid smoke. FF Graffagnino appeared to be disoriented. E-24 Back-Up attempted to pull FF Graffagnino to the ground but fell back.

1650hrs: E-24 Back-Up transmitted the MAYDAY for Graffagnino & Beddia. 

1652hrs: 3rd Alarm transmitted. (75 minutes in)

1653hrs: E-24 Back-Up reached other firefighters. He informed Rescue 1, Rescue Battalion aide & Battalion 41 that Graffagnino & Beddia were still inside. E-24 Back-Up was exhausted & vomitting. There were other MAYDAY's transmitted & resolved during this.

1657hrs: There were no units operating above the 14th floor. Engine 24, Rescue 1, Rescue Battalion, Battalion 41 & Division 11 were the only units operating on the 14th floor. 

1657hrs: Battalion 2 made inquiry of missing members from Engine 24.

1658hrs: Rescue Battalion aide reported he is on the 14th floor & E-24 Back-Up states the rest of his company is missing, can we confirm this.

After hearing a PASS alarm, even though exhausted & operating for over an hour, Rescue 1 conducted the search. Division 11 located FF Graffagnino on the north side just across from the B stairway. He was supine & unconscious. His PASS alarm was activated.

17:07hrs Rescue 1 officer reported hearing another PASS alarm sounding. Engine 3 officer located FF Beddia in the core area between 2 turnstiles. He was on the edge of the platform that covered the original building elevator shafts on the east side of the core area. He was unconscious in the prone position.

Lt Joseph Graffagnino was posthumously promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on August 18, 2007. He was appointed Probationary Firefighter May 9th, 1999. He was assigned to Engine 24 August 4th, 1999 & transfered to Ladder 5 on December 9th, 2006.  He was detailed to Engine 24 for the day tour at the time of the Deutsche Bank fire assigned to the Control position.

FF Robert Beddia was appointed Probationary Firefighter on October 24th, 1983. December 7th 1983 he was assigned to Engine 24. For the Deutsche Bank fire, FF Beddia was working Overtime for the day tour assigned to the Nozzle position.

Continue reading

Waldbaum's Fire August 2nd, 1978

Waldbaum's Fire August 2nd, 1978

August 2nd, 1978, 12 firefighters plunged into a burning Waldbaum's Supermarket when the bowstring truss roof collapsed at the center of the store. 6 firefighters died. Shortly before the collapse, a crackling sound was heard. Some of the 20 firefighters on the roof at the time were able to run to the roof's edge.

The bowstring truss, concealed by a rain roof, failed as a result of the unchecked fire gaining headway.

The fire was reported at 8:30am, escalated to a 5th alarm as a result of the rescue and recovery effort. Built in 1952, the supermarket was undergoing extensive renovations and was open for business. At the time, they were welding in the ceiling. The roof collapsed 32 minutes after initial units arrived. 6 firefighters were killed, 34 injured. 

Failure of 1 truss element can cause failure of the entire truss and a resulting collapse of the entire structure. The danger of truss construction whether a bowstring truss, wooden truss with gusset plates or metal parallel chord truss pose a danger to firefighters. 

Of the 6 members killed August 2nd, 1978 at the Waldbaum's Fire in Brooklyn, FF William O'Connor was the youngest. 29 years of age, he had only 7 1/2 months on the job. O'Connor was reporting for duty that morning, his wife and 3 children drove him to work. As they arrived, the bells were ringing in the firehouse. He ran into the firehouse, thew his gear on and jumped in. His wife followed behind to watch their hero husband/father in action. Unfortunately, they were watching as he was thrown into the collapse. 6 of New York City's bravest were killed, 34 others injured.

We remember the following members who lost their lives at Brooklyn 4th Alarm 77-44-3300 August 2nd, 1978:

Lt James E Cutillo, Bn-33 He was married with 2 children. Joined FDNY April 6, 1963.

FF Charles S Bouton, L-156  38 years of age, married father of 6 children. Joined FDNY September 14, 1968.

FF Harold Hastings, Bn-42 39 years of age, 16 year veteran of the FDNY.

FF James P McManus, L-153 44 years of age, married with 2 daughters, 17 year veteran of the FDNY.

FF William O'Connor, L-15629 years of age, married father of 3 children. Only 7 1/2 months on the FDNY.

FF George S Rice, L-153 38 years of age, married with 2 children. Joined the FDNY August 14, 1965. 

Continue reading

Ritz Tower Explosion

Ritz Tower Explosion

August 1st, 1932 - FDNY Companies were turned out to a reported fire in the sub-cellar of the Ritz Tower. Located at 113 East 57 Street, the Ritz is a 41 story hotel/residential building with stores on the 1st floor. It was one of the tallest residential buildings in New York City. While members were working to extinguish the fire, fumes from the paint shop met the high heat from the fire causing an explosion. Lt James Hartnett, L-16 and FF Thomas S Finn, E-65 were closest to the explosion and were killed instantly. The Incident Commander promptly transmitted the 2nd alarm for box 924. Uninjured firemen near the explosion rushed to remove the injured when, with in 3 minutes of the 1st explosion, a 2nd occured. The 2nd was more powerful and bigger than the 1st, blowing out partition walls, traveling up the dumbwaiter shaft to the 1st floor. 5 firemen were killed in the 2nd explosion and another succumed to his injuries 2 weeks later.

We remember FDNY members killed at the Ritz Tower Explosion Box 66-22-0924 occuring August 1st, 1932 at 113 East 57 Street.

Lt James Hartnett, L-16 August 1, 1932

FF Thomas S Finn, E-65 August 1, 1932

FF James F Greene, E-65 August 1, 1932

FF Louis Hardina, L-16 August 1, 1932

FF William L Pratt, L-7 detailed to L-2 August 1, 1932

Lt John H Cosgrove, E-65 August 1, 1932

FF Peter A Daly, E-39 August 1, 1932

FF Edward R Maloney, E-39 August 18, 1932

Continue reading
Go to top