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Floral Park firefighter has praise, thanks for rescuers

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Firefighter Eddie Murray does not remember much from the afternoon of Jan. 2, when he was knocked unconscious fighting a fire in Douglaston and had to be rescued from the burning building by his colleagues.

But he will never forget the help he got from his fellow firefighters and the support they gave him as he lay in a hospital bed for several days recovering from his injuries.

“I work with some fantastic firefighters,” said Murray, a 20-year veteran who has spent the last 11 years at Douglaston’s Ladder 164. “I owe them a lot and I just wanted to thank them.”

Murray, 48, of Floral Park, L.I. was one of four firefighters injured Jan. 2 responding to a 4 p.m. fire at a house under construction at 248-40 54th Ave.

A Fire Department spokesman said at the time that the injuries involved were minor. But Murray said Monday he did not know whether he would be allowed to return to work at the firehouse after hurting his neck and left foot and inhaling smoke.

Murray, along with Engine 313, the other company at the Douglaston firehouse, was among the first to respond to the basement blaze.

He said he walked through the front door and the dark, smoky stairway when he fell on the stairs and hit his head — knocking him unconscious for less than two minutes.

A nearby firefighter from Engine 313 realized Murray was hurt and a “mayday” was issued. Men “came from every opening in the house to get me out of there,” Murray said.

He was given oxygen and lifted out of the stairway and into an ambulance bound for North Shore Hospital in Manhasset, where he stayed until Jan. 6.

“I remember them putting me in the ambulance. I didn’t know what happened,” Murray said. “Nothing has come back, not even bits and pieces.”

His wife, Donna, and daughters, Katie and Erin, decorated the family’s house with streamers and a “Welcome Back” sign for his return.

“It was a scary experience,” his wife said. “You think something is a priority in your life and suddenly everything is on the back burner.”

Though his memories from the fire are dim, Murray was deeply thankful for the assistance he received at the scene from members of the Fire Department’s 53rd Battalion, which covers firehouses in Douglaston, Glen Oaks, Bayside, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village. The fire companies that responded to the blaze came from those areas, he said.

The accidental fire was caused by an object being placed too close to a heater and was placed under control in about half an hour, a Fire Department spokesman said.

Visitors to the hospital, both retired and active duty firefighters from Murray’s firehouse and the surrounding Floral Park community, were there for him all the way.

“The phone was ringing nonstop. It seemed like I was never alone,” he said.

Murray, who performs stand-up comedy to benefit the Thomas Elsasser Fund for widows and children of firefighters, was administered the medicine of laughter by colleagues telling him jokes at his bedside.

“I had to tell them to stop because it was hurting my neck,” he said with a smile.

The fireman, who walked with some difficulty around the house he shares with his wife and two daughters, said he was on medical leave as he waited to hear whether he would be able to go back to work fighting fires.

“I’m a firehouse guy. I love the firehouse,” he said. “I don’t even want to think about that right now.”

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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