Late last year, a house fire ripped through and destroyed a home on North 12th Street in New Hyde Park that sadly claimed the lives of 68-year-old New Hyde Park resident Maria Karpinski and 4-year-old Brooke Schillizzi of Massapequa Park. The fire, which started at around 3 a.m. that night, had the New Hyde Park Fire Department, who were assisted by six other local fire departments, rushing to the scene to put out the burning inferno.
Recently, Presiding Officer of the Nassau County Legislature Richard Nicollelo helped honor four brave village firefighters at the annual Nassau County Fire Commission Awards Ceremony at the Nassau County Firefighters Museum in Garden City for their heroic actions in response to the deadly fire.
“The courage and skill of the firefighters who risked their safety in the rescue effort is truly awesome,” said Nicolello, who is also a lifelong New Hyde Park resident. “These are the true heroes in our community.”
Upon arrival on the night of the fire, Chief Patrick Lyons, who received reports from residents on the scene that two people were trapped on the second floor inside, reported that it was a working house fire.
As various units arrived, they were met with heavy fire conditions from the garage, front door and second floor windows. It was later estimated that approximately 70 percent of the house was engulfed in flames. The village’s truck 175 forcible entry team attempted to enter through the front door, but were immediately pushed back by heavy fire conditions. A second team entered the house through a side door, but were also blocked from the interior stairs by the flames. Members of Engine 172 advanced a line to the front door, who tried to knock down the first floor fire. As other lines were being stretched, ladders were being placed around the rear of the house as well.
Lieutenant Stephen Waldron, who realized the only chance for rescue would be from the rear of the second floor, applied a hose nozzle through a window to slow the fire that was spreading to the rear of the house. Meanwhile, Waldron saw firefighter Michael Sokol climbing a ground ladder, who vented the window. At the top of the ladder, Sokol was met with significant heat and thick smoke, which almost completely filled the window. Without hesitation Sokol entered the room with the intention of closing the bedroom door in order to facilitate a search.
Waldron, who had been relieved on the hose line, moved to Sokol’s ground ladder, along with firefighter Conor Jacoby. Inside, Sokol encountered Schillizzi and handed her off to Jacoby, who had just reached the top of the ladder. Jacoby brought Schillizzi down to fellow firefighters who moved her to EMS. Afterward, Jacoby rejoined Sokol inside the house to complete the search.
Waldon, Sokol and Jacoby, in almost zero visibility and under high heat conditions, found and brought Karpinski to the window and passed her to firefighter Joseph Abkoush, who carried Karpinski down the ladder without any assistance. Karpinski was then moved to awaiting EMS crews below.
The Fire Commission presented Gold Medals of Honor to New Hyde Park Lieutenant Waldron and firefighters Jacoby and Sokol, and a Bronze Medal of Honor to firefighter Joseph Abukoush. The Nassau County Fire Commission also awarded the members of the New Hyde Park Fire Department with a Unit Citation award for their actions.
—Additional information provided by the New Hyde Park Fire Department