Hero firefighter dies in Williamsburgh blaze

Brooklyn Currents | 7/06/2014 | 0 comments

From the N.Y. Daily News and WCBS TV and Radio

 The FDNY believes the Williamsburgh apartment  blaze that killed firefighter  Lt. Gordon Matthew Ambelas Saturday night, July 5 was sparked by a pinched air-conditioner cord Saturday night.

"It was accidental, electrical," said FDNY        
spokesman Jim Long.           
Firefighters hang bunting in honor of Lt. Gordon Ambelas, who was killed in the line of duty July 5, 2014. (Credit: Ginny Kosola/WCBS 880)
Firefighters hang black and purple bunting in honor of Lt. Ambelas (WCBS photo)
The cord was strained between Angel Pagan's bed and wall inside his 19th floor apartment where the fatal fire began around 9:10 p.m. Saturday, according to the FDNY.

Pagan, 51, also used several extension cords in the apartment to help keep his three small dogs cool with multiple fans and run a makeshift hair salon inside his cluttered one-bedroom apartment, several neighbors at the high-rise at 75 Wilson St. in Williamsburg said.

"He's got a lot of plugs … lot of wires," said Noreida Santiago, 64, who lives next door in apartment 19C.

It was sometimes even a struggle to open the front door, one neighbor said.
"It was definitely overstuffed," said Madonna Hernandez, 28, who slept next door to where the blaze occurred. "If he finds something on the street he'll take it home. He's that kind of person."

Meanwhile, the black bunting was hung at Ladder 119 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Sunday in honor of Lt. Ambelas.

The 40-year-old was a 14-year veteran of the FDNY when he died while searching for victims inside the jammed apartment.

"It's difficult when there's Colliers Mansion conditions," said a high-ranking FDNY source, referring to a home filled with trash and refuse.

the apartment where the fire started was heavily cluttered with debris and belongings, making it dangerous for responding firefighters.

Firefighters hung the memorial black and purple bunting outside Engine Co. 211 in Williamsburg on Sunday. Eric Bischoff, Ambelas' longtime colleague, remember him as a friend and hero.

"We had a tragic fire, and Matt, true to who he is, led these men from the front with bravery," Bischoff said Sunday. "He was unwavering in his efforts to find and save lives. He died a hero.

"That's how he lived. And we will never forget him.

"Matt died last night a hero. He lived every day as a hero."

Lt. Ambelas spent time working at Ground Zero after 9/11 and also in Superstorm Sandy's aftermath, Schuck reported.

A line of Orthodox Jewish men stood outside the firehouse paying respect, remembering he recently saved a 7-year-old boy's life in the neighborhood,

Kosola reported. Lt. Ambelas, who was a married father of two daughters from Staten Island, was among the firefighters honored last month for helping to save the child who became trapped in a roll-down gate in May. The boy was pulled 15 feet off the ground when his arm and head got stuck.

"The entire community's heartbroken and saddened," Rabbi Lieb Glanz said.
Ambelas said at the time that the incident "shows that FDNY members are always ready to help others. It was great teamwork all around."

It is the department's first line of duty death since Lt. Richard A. Nappi was killed fighting a Brooklyn warehouse blaze in April 2012. Ambelas is the 18th to die since 343 firefighters perished in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

A police officer, Dennis Guerra, died in April after he and his partner were overcome by smoke and carbon monoxide while responding to a mattress fire on the 13th floor of a Coney Island public housing complex.

Guerra's partner, Rosa Rodriguez, is recovering after more than a month in the hospital.

Ambelas was promoted to lieutenant 10 months ago and assigned to Battalion 28 in Brooklyn, officials said. He worked in various firehouses as part of the job and spent the last several months working in Ladder 119.

Lt. Ambelas is survived by his wife, Nanette, and two daughters.


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