When the new Van Nest school building on Bronxdale Avenue opens next fall, it may bear the name of two brave firefighters who gave their lives to save others in an illegally subdivided apartment building in 2005.
Community Education Council 11 gave an advisory vote in favor of naming the school building currently being completed at Bronxdale and Van Nest avenues after FDNY Lieutenant Curtis Meyran and Firefighter John Bellow on Wednesday, April 28. The two firefighters perished in a blaze at 236 E.178th Street in January 24, 2005, after jumping from a fourth floor rear window of the building after becoming trapped by the flames.
Councilman James Vacca said he thought that naming the new school after the two fallen heros is a fitting tribute to men who made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting the people of the city.
The building’s owner had been convicted of criminally negligent homicide because tenants in the apartment building had illegally subdivided their units, possibly causing the firefighters to become trapped in the blaze. The case was overturned in February 2010, Vacca said, because a court ruled that the landlord did not know about the partitions that had been set up in apartments that limited access to escape routes for the two brave firefighters.
“We always want to name schools after people who exemplify service and certainly these two firefighters should be honored,” Vacca said. “When I heard about what had happened with the court case, I said we have to do something to honor the memory of these two men.”
Uniformed Firefighters Association Bronx trustee Edward Brown said that both the Meyran and Bellow families think naming the school after their loved ones is a fitting tribute.
“It will mean a lot to the families to have a school named after them,” Brown said. “It is not common to name schools after firefighters.”
Brown said that while a number of schools in the Bronx have been named after fallen police officers, this is the first he knows of to be named for firefighters.
“It would be a good thing for the kids because these two men are role models who were hard working, family men.” Brown said. “Today, kids are too often told to look to athletes or celebrities as role models. These are just really good guys who were doing there job. Unfortunately, every time a fire fighter goes up on that rig, they are risking their lives.”