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FDNY lieutenant honored for rescue of firefighter trapped in 4-alarm blaze

As fire blocked his escape, Lieutenant Mark Russo moved toward the sound of the SCBA alarm to find the unresponsive firefighter


Firefighters battle a fire involving several residences in Staten Island on Feb. 2023.


By Luke Peteley
Staten Island Advance

NEW YORK — An FDNY lieutenant from Staten Island was awarded the department’s most prestigious honor for rescuing a fellow firefighter trapped in a roaring blaze in Annadale last year.

FDNY Lt. Mark H. Russo of the Rescue Battalion was lauded for his heroic efforts alongside many of New York’s Bravest during the 155th annual Medal Day Ceremony at City Hall Wednesday.

Present at the ceremony, aside from the esteemed array of awardees, were Mayor Eric Adams, Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, and Chief of Department John Hodgens, a Great Kills resident.

Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh called the Staten Island fire a “very close call” as the members receive treatment for a variety of injuries

Ahead of bestowing the many recipients with plaques and medals, Kavanagh spoke to the noble work of the department’s members. In her speech, Kavanagh recognized an off-duty Staten Island firefighter for his selfless rescue of an apartment complex resident and four dogs.

“Our members — you — prove over and over again how committed they are to the lifesaving mission of the FDNY,” Kavanagh said. “They are always ready and always on. Just last week, a firefighter on his way to work noticed smoke billowing from a building. Without protective gear, and before the first fire truck had even arrived, he courageously entered the building.”

“This is who we are at the FDNY,” Kavanagh added. “You see what you do as a calling, and that’s what gives you the conviction and the courage to do what you do; no matter the time of day, no matter if you are on duty or off.”

While the FDNY works day in and day out to keep the city safe, each year the department recognizes select distinguished members for going above and beyond to preserve the lives of New Yorkers.

Russo found himself at the ceremony as the recipient of the Chief of Department Peter J. Ganci Jr . Medal and the NYS Honorary Fire Chiefs Association Medal.

This Ganci medal is the top fire operations honor and is awarded annually to acknowledge “the highest act of bravery” by a firefighter. This medal, formerly known as the James Gordon Bennett Medal, was renamed in 2020 in honor of Chief of Department Peter J. Ganci Jr ., the highest-ranking uniformed member of the FDNY lost on Sept. 11, 2001.


Russo was working a detail with Squad Company 8 when a fire responsible for injuring 20 firefighters, several seriously, broke out on Feb. 17, 2023, in Annadale.

The inferno initially broke out in the semi-attached, three-story residence at 84 Shotwell Ave. around 1:30 p.m. Eventually, the blaze escalated to a four-alarm fire, prompting the response of more than 200 firefighters, among them Squad 8.

As conditions worsened, a firefighter bailed out of a second-story window, landing in the driveway below. That’s when a firefighter trapped on the second floor of the structure issued an urgent mayday.

Subsequent maydays alerted other responders on the scene that the trapped member was “burning up,” as detailed by the FDNY.

Taking to the call, Russo and Squad 8 Chauffeur Justin McGhie acted with haste and moved in front of the hoseline of Engine 168. The pair navigated an obstructed and narrow staircase, clambering over furniture, to reach the second floor, the FDNY detailed.

Hearing the faint breathing apparatus alarm, Russo made his way to the origin of the sound. In that moment, the FDNY said fire had taken to the stairwell, effectively blocking his escape.

Pressing forward, Russo located the unresponsive FDNY member and rallied with McGhie. Coming to their aid, Engine 165 began to clear the staircase of flames

Russo was then able to take the firefighter and pass him down to McGhie, who extracted the member from the structure.

“Due to Lieutenant Mark Russo’s quick thinking, aggressive actions and bravery amid truly intense circumstances, a firefighter’s life was saved,” a statement from the program for the FDNY’s 155th Medal Day Ceremony read.

When Russo stepped up to receive his medal, he received thunderous applause and cheers from his fire-combatting colleagues.

Although this award marks a distinguishable moment in his career, Russo has served with the FDNY since November 2006.


Members of Staten Island’s Squad Company 8, based in Travis, were also recognized for their work on the scene of the Annadale fire, with the company receiving the Firefighter Thomas R. Elsasser Memorial Medal.

Among the recipients from Squad 8 were the following: — Russo — McGhie — Firefighter Carmelo F. Bravata Jr . — Firefighter Anthony M. DeCicco — Firefighter Shawn A. Miro — Firefighter Robert W. Brunone, R-5


Firefighter Kwabena Brentuo of Engine 168 in Rossville was on the scene the day of the Annadale fire and manned the nozzle of a hoseline.

Brentuo advanced the hose into the structure and covered the rescue efforts of Squad 8.

Members of Engine 168 were forced to retreat from the hoseline due to rapidly depleting air supplies leaving Brentuo to solely man the hoseline.

Air ran critically low, and yet, Brentuo stood steadfast in his mission until the trapped members upstairs were recovered, according to the FDNY.

While Brentuo was eventually able to pass the nozzle off, he was overwhelmed by smoke and lost consciousness in the stairway. Members of Squad 8 carried him out of the building where he could be treated by EMS.

“Firefighter Kwabena Brentuo’s selfless actions that day undoubtedly played a major role in aiding the rescue and recovery of a downed firefighter, and for that, his bravery is commended with the John H. Prentice Medal,” the FDNY ceremony publication read.

Four firefighters were seriously injured after being trapped in a fire while the closest ladder company was out of service for medical exams

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