On the night of July 4, 2015, the Baldwin Fire Department was dispatched to a report of smoke coming from an apartment.
The chief was the first to arrive on the scene and transmitted a Signal 10 (working fire).
Ex-Captain Frederick Kopf, a 28-year veteran of Ladder Co. 2, arrived in his personal vehicle, donned his PPE and conducted a search. At the top of the stairs, he met a Nassau County Police Department officer who confirmed reports that a victim was in the apartment.
“Fred negotiated the apartment fire in zero visibility, blistering heat and without the benefit of a partner to carry out this successful rescue.”
The police officer stated he was leaving due to the high heat and smoke. Fred entered the living room to start his search. The fire was now rolling up the walls. Fred passed the living room with no line in place for protection. He entered the kitchen, then the bathroom and finally the bedroom. The fire behind him was now rolling across the ceiling in the living room.
While making his way down the hallway to the bedroom, the heat was worsening and the visibility was now close to zero. He encountered the family pet that had already succumbed
to the high heat and smoke. After much difficulty, he was able to locate the victim against a rear wall under a protruding air conditioning unit wrapped in a quilt. With little strength left, Fred was able to drag the victim toward the front door of the apartment.
Under extremely hazardous conditions, firefighters Thomas Ryley and Joseph Gerbino were assisted by firefighter Edward Moore from Truck 1 in the difficult removal of the victim past the fire room and down the stairs to the courtyard.
With little less to go on but instinct, an exhausted Fred returned to the cluttered bedroom for an additional search before meeting his fellow members at the base of the stairs. Members of the department met this crew at the bottom of the stairs and assisted with handing the victim off to EMS personnel.
Fred negotiated the apartment fire in zero visibility, blistering heat and without the benefit of a partner to carry out this successful rescue. He knowingly passed the fire room without the protection of a hand line in a rapidly deteriorating environment.
During the course of this rescue, Fred exhibited remarkable courage, determination and skill to ensure the successful solution, which directly resulted in the saving of a human life. Fred acted in the highest traditions of the fire service and without regard for his own personal safety.
Adapted from nominations submitted by Baldwin Fire Department Chief Karen Bendel and Captain Frederick Dirmeir