Passaic Firefighters commended

12 12 2007

PASSAIC — Three residents might have died in last week’s three-alarm fire on Passaic Street had it not been for three city firefighters who risked their lives in entering a burning apartment building, fire officials said Tuesday

Firefighter Jack LaPlaca, Lt. Bruce Rusconi and Lt. John Brutosky were commended in the fire chief’s report regarding the Dec. 5 blaze, which engulfed 150 Passaic St., and eventually spread next door to 152 Passaic St. The report, released on Tuesday, provided new details on how the fire began and rescues.

The fire began in a lightshaft, or thin alleyway that separates the two buildings and where debris and rubbish collect, Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost said. A second-floor resident of 150 Passaic St. told fire inspectors that she discovered the fire outside her window and tried to extinguish it with water. But the fire continued to eat its way up the side of the building and eventually to the second floor, Trentacost said.

Just before 6:30 p.m., LaPlaca was headed to a nearby gym when he noticed black smoke pouring from the building. The firefighter, who was off-duty at the time and not wearing his fire-resistant uniform, rushed into the smoke-filled building and past evacuating residents. On the second floor, LaPlaca picked up a wheelchair-bound man and carried him and his wheelchair outdoors.

Rusconi and Brutosky, whose rescue of two residents were reported last week, arrived on separate fire rigs shortly afterward. Because of the fire, 17 apartments were evacuated but the number of residents displaced remained unknown.

Fire officials estimated that between 50 and 100 people were evacuated.

The building appeared to be a rooming house and the owners of the property could face fines and criminal charges if inspectors determine there were fire code violations, officials said.

The two residents rescued from the building by Rusconi and Brutosky were treated and released from St. Mary’s Hospital, Trentacost said. NorthJersey.com

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