WORCESTER – In just the past two weeks, and in separate incidents, two Worcester Fire Lieutenants have saved the lives of Worcester residents while off-duty and without protective gear.
The stories of the two lieutenants — Timothy Ridick and Christopher Kelly — and their heroic acts are below, as described by the Worcester Fire Department.
Lieutenant Timothy Ridick:
On the evening of Wednesday February 28, Lieutenant Timothy Ridick, assigned to Engine Co. 9, served as an attendant for the Worcester Fire Department at the wake of retired firefighter Gerald Vouna. After parking his car on Hamilton Street, Lt. Ridick heard the distinctive sound of a “local” fire alarm ringing in a multi-family home at an adjacent address. As he approached 92 Hamilton St., it became clear that this was the building sounding the alarm and upon reaching the building he could see flames emanating from a second floor rear window of the building.
Dressed only in civilian clothes, with a cell phone to act as a radio, Lt. Ridick immediately, and at great personal risk to himself, entered the burning building to alert residents and to assist them to a safe exit. He immediately entered the burning apartment and crawled under the smoke without any Personal Protective Equipment. He located the occupants of the apartment who were standing disoriented in the growing smoke layer. Lt. Ridick directed them below the smoke and guided them to the exit and outside to safety. He then used his cell phone to call 911 and report the fire before making a second ascent of the stairs to conduct an additional search, all while giving direction and “orders” to dispatch over his improvised radio. He helped guide residents from other apartments who had made their way to the stairwell from the building, and after reaching the third floor was forced to withdraw.
Lieutenant Ridick remained on scene for a short period of time to brief the incoming fire resources on conditions and location of the fire. True to form for most firefighters, Lt. Ridick then simply got back into his vehicle and drove home without fanfare.
Eyewitness accounts from the occupants who were assisted by an “unknown person” corroborate these heroic actions. The Worcester Fire Department is proud to highlight these exceptional actions as an example of the outstanding public servants that the City of Worcester is honored to have in its ranks.
Lieutenant Christopher Kelly:
Just before 7 a.m. on Monday, March 5, Lieutenant Christopher Kelly was starting his day and getting ready to report for duty on Ladder Co. 7 for a 24-hour shift. While exiting his home, Lieutenant Kelly was startled to see flames coming from the windows of a neighbor’s home at 3 Green farm Road.
Lt. Kelly immediately ran toward the fire and yelled to his wife to call 911 and report the fire to authorities. Lt. Kelly immediately began to pound on the windows and doors of the home to alert the occupants and gain access to the building. One of the occupants, an adult male, presented at a rear window and told the off-duty firefighter that he was trying to get his physically impaired mother out of the room. Lt. Kelly looked in the window and saw that the growing fire was blocking the interior exit from the room. He attempted to guide the male occupant to lift the elderly woman to the window where he had pushed the upper half of his body through to grab and pull the woman to safety. Together they made several heroic attempts to lift the woman up to the small window, located some four feet from the floor level.
As conditions became increasingly untenable, Lt. Kelly was forced to make an incredibly difficult decision. He risked losing the lives of the son and the mother, unless he could convince the male occupant to leave. With smoke and fire rolling over the head of both Lt. Kelly and the male occupant, he was able to convince and assist the man through the window to safety.
Fire conditions worsened rapidly prior to the arrival of the first fire companies. Lt. Kelly directed the members of Engine 3 to the exact location of the elderly woman and manned a hose line to protect the rescuers without the benefit of Personal Protective Equipment. The crew of Engine 3 under the direction of Captain Adam Roche quickly found the still semi-conscious woman and pulled her from the building and began to provide medical assistance to her. Unfortunately, and despite the incredible efforts of the UMass paramedics, the extent of her injuries was too severe and she was later pronounced deceased at the hospital.
Lieutenant Kelly’s exceptional actions are a testament to his dedication to his profession and to his community. His quick and decisive actions undoubtedly saved the life of his neighbor who was valiantly trying to assist his mother exit from the burning home. The Worcester Fire Department is proud and humbled by these unselfish heroic actions.