Two residents of Bellmore and Springs are being recognized for their heroic off-duty efforts with firefighter and EMS provider of the year awards, respectively, by the Firemen's Association of the State of New York.
John Curley, 44, a New York City firefighter and volunteer at the Bellmore Fire Department, and Karen Haab, 50, an advanced emergency medical technician with the Springs Volunteer Fire Department, will be honored Friday during FASNY's annual convention in Albany.
"These heroic deeds are due to their courage, intense training and constant responding to fire and medical emergencies," said FASNY vice president Robert McConville, a 30-year member of the Selden Fire Department.
This is the first year both awards are going to Long Islanders, FASNY officials said. Since 1955, Long Island has seen 15 firefighters win the award; three Long Islanders have received the EMS award since it began in 2006.
Curley, a 30-year member of the Bellmore department, rescued a 92-year-old woman from her home, which was engulfed in flames.
According to Curley and FASNY officials, he was off-duty one day last November and on his way with his 17-year-old son to pick up a boiler for a firehouse in his district when he responded to a dispatch about a nearby house fire.
Curley was one of the first on the scene. A resident of the house told Curley his mother was still inside and pointed to one of the two windows without any flames.
Another resident and a neighbor had placed a file cabinet under the window where the woman was trapped. Curley climbed on top of the file cabinet and placed a nearby wooden ladder on top of it.
Without tools or protective equipment, he scaled the ladder and broke the window with his bare hands. Through intense smoke and heat he located the woman, who was unconscious, and passed her down to waiting rescuers. Less than a minute after Curley exited back out the window, the room was in flames. The woman survived.
"The magnitude of the situation didn't set in until after quite a while," Curley said. "It was pretty crazy to realize the severity of what happened. . . . I was afraid my son would have witnessed something that wouldn't turn out so good for me."
Haab, too, was off-duty when the rescue for which she was nominated occurred.
She was enjoying Atlantic Beach in Amagansett in August 2012 when she noticed an elderly man being taken out of the water. An 11-year advanced EMT, Haab immediately approached the man and stabilized his head. After his face turned blue and his mouth began filling with saliva, she began CPR.
A group of lifeguards and other EMTs helped get the man to an ambulance as Haab continued to perform CPR. On the way to Southampton Hospital, the man began breathing on his own. Haab later found out he had broken his neck in two places while boogie boarding with his grandchildren, she said.
"You just go into your EMT mode," Haab said. "You train so hard and you practice, practice, practice, and when a situation like this comes up, it just automatically comes into play. I didn't even think twice about it."
Haab is president of Double A House and Property Management in East Hampton.
Award recipients are nominated by members of their department. This year, there were 23 nominations from across the state for the firefighter of the year award and nine for the EMS provider of the year, officials said.