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Bayside native awarded Fire Department’s highest honor

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A deadly fire that swept through a six-story Jackson Heights apartment building in the early morning hours of Dec. 15, 2004, that left two people dead and 15 critically or seriously injured could have been far worse if not for the actions of members of Ladder Co. 138, and Rescue Co. 4, according to the Fire Department.Victor J. Rosa Jr., originally from Bayside and now a resident of Massapequa Park, L.I., was awarded the James Gordon Bennett Medal for courage during the Fire Department's Medal Day ceremony, presided over by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scopetta.The Fire Department awarded 42 medals for valor at the event held on the steps of City Hall."Every day our members risk their lives to ensure the safety of millions of New Yorkers and today we take the opportunity to say 'thank you' for your sacrifice and courage," Scopetta said in remarks at the event.Rosa's mother, Catherine Rosa, from Bayside, said in an interview the day after the ceremony that she was proud of her son for receiving the unexpected honor. She said the danger of the job worried her, though."It was kind of a mixed emotion, especially when I read what he had done to be awarded the medal. I generally don't read what goes on at fires. But I am still terribly proud of him," she said.Victor Rosa was selected for the top honor for making three trips to bring three unconscious victims, including a 4-year-old girl, out of the fire and smoke-filled third-floor hallway of the building at 37-52 89th St. Ultimately, one of the women died from her injuries.The blaze began when an unattended candle burned curtains in a second-floor apartment, creating flames that eventually spread to the third-floor hallway, according to the Fire Department account of the tragedy.Using a portable ladder, according to the account, Rosa and other firefighters from Ladder Co. 138 - the Corona Tigers - entered the building through a third-floor window. Rosa searched the hallway for victims, locating them one by one. He first brought the two women from immediate danger to a safer room. From there another member of the company brought them to the street.Then he made his third trip to the hallway and found the young girl unconscious. He lifted her and crawled past a stairwell full of fire, hoping to find another set of stairs. He found them and descended down to the street with the girl.Two other members of Ladder Co. 138 were awarded individual medals for their actions in that fire: Brian Cullen was given the Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia Medal and Joseph J. Tarantini was given the Thomas F. Dougherty Medal.Six members of the company were awarded the Firefighter Thomas R. Elsasser Memorial Medal for valor, and two members of Rescue Co. 4, also of Queens, were honored for their bravery that morning.Another Queens unit, Engine 298, was awarded the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation Medal for their actions at a fire Sept. 6, 2004, at 150-82 87th Ave.Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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