Lynbrook Firefighters Valiantly Rescue Homeowner in House Fire;

Firefighter Burned Making Rescue

Family Member Calls Them Heros

Story by Ex-Captain Steve Grogan

First 2 photos by Zeke Beckman, bottom photo gallery by by Steve Grogan

Lotty Schamroth was a 90 year old grandmother. She lived alone in a two bedroom, one story home at 180 Charing Cross in the Yorkshire section of Lynbrook, just off Peninsula Blvd. On the afternoon of December 11, 2003, she was preparing herself an early dinner. But something went wrong. At approximately 2:50 PM that day Lotty picked up the phone and dialed 911. She told the Lynbrook police dispatcher who answered the phone that her kitchen was on fire. The dispatcher quickly activated the Lynbrook Fire Department alarm system and radios and announced the reported fire. Lynbrook police officers were also sent to the scene.

The first persons on the scene that afternoon were two Lynbrook police officers, John Reichert and Tony Zee, who arrived in just minutes of Lotty’s call. Heavy smoke blanketed the area and flames were already shooting out of the rear windows of her home. Although the police officers had no fire protection clothing they broke down the front door in an attempt to save Lotty. But they were driven back out of the house by the heavy smoke and intense heat of the growing fire that was consuming the home. Officer Zee, in looking for another way into the house found a garden hose on the side of the house and wanted to bring the hose line into the house only to learn that the water had been turned off for the winter.

LFD’s Engine Company #1 was the first fire truck on the scene and hooked up to the hydrant directly across the street from the burning house. They began to stretch the hose lines from the truck that would be needed to put out the fire. Second Deputy Chief James McDermott, who had arrived after the police officers and was told by them that they heard the woman calling for help inside, ordered the members of Tally-Ho Engine #3, who had also just arrived, to get in the house and search for the woman.

Tally-Ho Captain Corey Callahan and three firefighters, Lieutenant James Deliver, Ex-Captain William Hahl, and rookie firefighter Raymond Bookman, made their way to the back of the house. They looked for a door or a window to get into the house. With everything found locked, Firefighter Bookman then forced open the back door. Heavy black smoke billowed out of the door. Callahan, without the protection of a hose line, got down on his stomach and crawled into the house and soon passed the fully involved kitchen. Just after he passed the burning kitchen the side wall lit up in flames blocking his exit and the further entry by the firefighters following him in. Callahan was now on his own as he kept moving into the house.

In the darkness of the heavy smoke and the sound of the crackling of the fire Callahan heard Lotty faintly calling out. He headed in the direction of her voice and found her on the dinning room floor. He said he only found her in the heavy smoke because of her calls. Without her calling out he may have missed her in the darkness. Callahan talked to her and told her he would get her out. Callahan, though, could not take the woman back out the way he came because of the fire consuming the back of the house. He decided he would take her out the only way left, through the front. As Callahan began to drag the woman away from the ever reaching flames his helmet fell from his head. In the smoky darkness he could not see where it went. Without the helmet now protecting his head Callahan was burned on the top of his head, his ears and partially on the side of his face.

While Callahan was dragging the semi-conscious Lotty in the darkness towards the front of the house, two firefighters from Truck Company #1, Ex-Captain Robert Gilmartin and Firefighter Tom Cinque, who had just arrived on one of the ladder trucks, made their way through the front door and reached Callahan and Lotty. They helped Callahan carry her out of the house as Engine Company brought the hose lines into the house to put out the fire.

After the three firefighters brought out Lotty they put her on the front lawn where members of the Emergency Medical Company took over and stabilized her. She was still alive and semi-conscious. The Medical Company then placed her on a stretcher and took her to South Nassau Communities Hospital. She had smoke inhalation and second degree burns to over 40% of her legs. But Lotty died almost an hour later in the hospital.

Captain Callahan, with second degree burns, was himself transported by the East Rockaway Fire Department ambulance to the Nassau University Medical Center for treatment. The East Rockaway Fire Department had responded on a mutual aid to Lynbrook to cover additional alarms. Callahan was treated for his burns and released that night from the hospital. A second firefighter was injured by broken glass at the fire and was treated by the Medical Company at the scene and also released.

Lynbrook firefighters brought the fire under control in about 20 minutes plus an additional hour for the total extinguishment of the fire and the overhaul of the house. They were at the scene until 4:30 PM. The Nassau County Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the cause of the fire but it is not considered suspicious. Damage was placed at between $150,000 and $200,000.

Stephen Wenk, Nassau County’s Assistant Chief Fire Marshal, who came to the scene, told News 12, in describing the efforts of Lynbrook firefighters, “It is what they do day in and day out and they’re very good at it. They were able to get in and locate her pretty quickly, get her out of the house, very quickly, and in the ambulance and on the way to the hospital.”

Lotty’s grandson would later tell a News 12 reporter that he wanted to thank the firefighters who put their lives on the line to save his grandmother. The grandson said they were “truly heroes” and wanted to personally thank them. The grandson did later phone the three firefighters that had gotten his grandmother out of her burning home and thanked them for their efforts. Lotty’s daughter-in-law told the Village Herald newspaper, “The Lynbrook Fire Department did such a wonderful, wonderful job of getting there so soon and in helping my mother-in-law. The word hero is so hackneyed nowadays, but they really are the everyday heroes.”

Lynbrook’s Fire Chief John J. Crowley Jr, who arrived on the fire scene later, praised the extraordinary efforts displayed by the Lynbrook volunteers in risking their own lives in the rescue of the homeowner. “This department is surely very proud of their actions on December 11, and so should the residents of this village,” said Chief Crowley. “We are all neighbors, and when the community suffers a tragic loss such as this, we feel it very deeply,” Chief Crowley told The Herald.

02/28/17 16:10

Copyright © 2000-2003 Lynbrook Fire Department. All rights reserved.
Revised: 28 Feb 2017 16:10:48 -0500 .