With controversy swirling around the decision by the FDNY to close Ladder Company 53 on City Island at night, a dramatic early morning rescue may just illustrate why a full fire force on the island is necessary.
The FDNY plans to shutter Ladder 53, which shares a firehouse on Schofield Street with Engine Company 70, between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. beginning January 17.
While elected officials Senator Jeff Klein and Councilman Jimmy Vacca protested the cost cutting measure, some very brave work on the part of the two companies likely saved the life of a woman who fell off a dock into the icy waters of Eastchester Bay shortly after 4 a.m. on Wednesday, December 17.
“This is the first time I have ever seen anything like this on City Island,” said Lt. Chris Kelly of Engine Company 70, who was at the dramatic rescue. “She is lucky that her neighbor heard her calling for help and dialed 911 immediately.”
According to the FDNY, firefighters responded to a call for help at 4:17 a.m. at 515 City Island Avenue stating that a woman had fallen off a dock and into the water near a marina and some houseboats.
Firefighters cut through a chain on a large gate leading to the marina’s waterfront, where they then heard the 40 year old woman screaming. A civilian who had come to her aid, tried to remove her from the water.
“She appeared to have fallen off the dock where her house boat was moored,” Kelly said. “The gate was locked, and we used a power saw to cut the chain, and go through the boatyard to get to the victim. The man at the dock was holding onto the victim but couldn’t pull her out.”
Kelly said that he and another firefighter pulled the woman out of the water by her arms and pants, and then carried her to a waiting ambulance on City Island Avenue. Because of snow and ice on the dock, the gurney could not be brought down to the waterfront. The woman was in the water for about 10 minutes.
“In the fight to save Ladder 53, we’re no longer dealing with hypotheticals,” Councilman Jimmy Vacca said. “If this same accident had occurred after January 17, this young woman would have lost her life — period. This unfortunate incident paints as clear a picture as we’ll ever see for why City Island needs a ladder company at all times. I am again calling on the Mayor and Fire Commissioner to reconsider this dangerous cut.