The life saving rope rescue evolution is one of the rarest and most dangerous evolutions performed by firefighters. When there are no other options to rescue a trapped person, the only option is the roof rope rescue. In the middle of the night on October 27, 2016, FF. James P. Lee, Jr. of Rescue Co. 1 in Manhattan performed the feat at a six alarm fire in a five-story old law tenement and saved an 81-year-old man’s life. When Rescue Co. 1 arrived at the fire, FF. Lee, the roof firefighter, made his way to the roof of the fire building via exposure 2. Once on the roof, FF. Lee saw fire blowing out of the shaft about 30 feet into the air. The roof and bulkhead of exposure 4 were also on fire. FF. Lee heard a radio transmission from FF. Francis Rush, the chauffeur of Rescue 1, that a civilian appeared at a top floor window. FF. Rush told the man to stay where he was because help was on the way. FF. Rush then informed FF. Lee and advised that a life saving rope (LSR) rescue would be required.
FF. Lee made contact with the victim and also told him to stay where he was. At this time, heavy black smoke and high heat were venting out over the man’s head. FF. Lee radioed Battalion Chief James W. Manning of the 10th Battalion that there was a trapped victim in the rear of the building and an LSR rescue was being set up. The fire condition in the building was so extreme that the engine’s hoselines could not make it past the second floor, negating an interior rescue. The fire started on the first floor and went up the interior stairs to the top floor and into the shaft.
FF. Lee proceeded to dump the contents of the LSR bag and handed the hook to FF. Andrew Hawkins of Ladder Co. 43. FF. Hawkins tied the rope off around a chimney, and FF. Lee attached the rope to his harness. The unbearable conditions caused the elderly victim to disappear from the window a few times. FF. Rush again asked the man to remain at the window. The victim stated that he was about to jump. Once FF. Hawkins was tied off to the chimney and took the turns around the hook, FF. Lee climbed over the four-foot fence and positioned himself in line with the victim. The man’s yells, helped FF. Lee locate him as he was lowered in zero visibility through heavy smoke and high heat. FF. Rush also assisted FF. Lee in locating the victim. When FF. Lee reached the window, the victim was crouched below the windowsill and fire was coming out over his head preventing him from standing. FF. Lee reached into the window and got one arm around the man’s back and one arm under his knees. The man could not hold onto FF. Lee because of burns and cuts to his arms and hands. FF. Lee was able to pick up the victim and remove him from the room, but once they were out of the building, momentum turned them 180 degrees and FF. Lee’s back was against the building. FF. Rush told FF. Hawkins to lower FF. Lee and the victim. FF. Lee used his legs to kick off the building to avoid being hung up on the rear wall while cradling the victim.
The LSR began to burn after fire came in contact with it as FF. Lee and the man reached the third floor. Just after FF. Lee and the victim safely reached the ground after passing four floors of fire, the LSR burned through and fell to the ground. FF. Lee and FF. Rush carried the burned victim through exposure 4 and to the street where he was handed off to EMS.
For his performance of an LSR rescue of an elderly man from a heavy fire and smoke condition, FF. James P. Lee, Jr. is being honored tonight.