Family thanks L.I. firefighters for saving 2 lives

By Peter McDermott

"I've two birthdays, now," Glenna King told the Long Beach, N.Y., firefighters who saved her life three weeks ago. "Aug. 12 and July 26."

On the latter date, Firefighter Anthony Fallon took her 6-year-old autistic son Maxwell out of her burning apartment to safety and then went back for her. With the help of Assistant Fire Chief Antonio Cuevas and Capt. Hadrick Ray, he carried the 41-year-old woman from the East Olive Street building.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

King, who became unconscious soon after calling 911, was taken to nearby Long Beach Medical Center for stabilization. She was then transferred to Nassau University Medical Center for aggressive treatment.

Eighteen days after her rescue, she dropped into the fire station with her ex-husband, her son and the boy's class to thank Fallon and his colleagues.

"Though limited in verbal communication, Maxwell showed no limits in his excitement and emotion when finally meeting Anthony," said the Long Beach Professional Firefighters Facebook page after the reunion a few days ago.

On July 26, Ambulance 2319 and Engine 2343, staffed by on-duty professional firefighters, were among the first to respond to the 3 a.m. call. A total of 50 firefighters would go to the scene.

"Five full-timers are on duty at any one time," Fire Chief Scott Kemins told the Echo.

In all, there are 26 paid firefighters in the Long Beach Fire Department and 170 volunteers. Both Cuevas and Ray are in the volunteer ranks, as was Fallon for the first half of his nearly two-decade career as a firefighter.

"I was very proud of him," Kemins said, referring to Fallon's rescue in a building with zero visibility. "That's what he trained for for 19 years.

"I'm a 30-year member and this is one of the calls and rescues that will stand out for the rest of my career," he added.

"As I was carrying the child downstairs, I realized that there had to be another victim, because there was no way that any parent would leave a child in a burning house," said Fallon, whose father Tony, a well-known singer in the Irish community, is from Athlone, Co. Roscommon, and whose mother Mary is from Charlestown, Co. Mayo.

He and Cuevas felt their way to King's bedroom, while Ray directed the hose line. "Anthony and Antonio simultaneously found the mother," Kemins said. With Fallon feeling the ill effects of the two rescues, Ray helped him and Cuevas carry the woman to safety.

Chief Kemins said the heat was intense. "The fire damage was limited - it was more heat and smoke damage," he told the Long Island Herald later that day. "The smoke alarms were going off, and because the rooms were super-heated, they melted."

Investigators have concluded that the fire was electrical and that it started in the living room of the apartment. They added that King had probably saved Maxwell's life by shutting his door after putting him to bed.

Before leaving the fire station, the firefighters' Facebook page reports, the class handed Fallon a group-made art project featuring their hand prints and a message for the firefighters: "Thank you LBFD for helping our friend Maxwell King."