Baldwin Fire Department volunteer firefighter Fred Kopf has been named the 2016 Firefighter of the Year by the Fireman’s Association of the New York and will be recognized in an award ceremony in Albany Saturday.
Kopf, a former department captain, was honored for his heroism during a July 4, 2015 apartment house fire in Baldwin. He performed a search and rescue to carry a 56-year-old man suffering from severe smoke inhalation, out of a rear bedroom.
“It gives me great pleasure to present FASNY’s 2016 Firefighter of the Year to Fred Kopf for demonstrating outstanding heroism and risking his own life to save another,” said FASNY President Robert McConville, head of the group that represents more than 110,000 volunteer firefighters statewide.
Kopf, 48, is a 29-year-veteran of the Baldwin Fire Department assigned to Hook and Ladder Company 2. He is also an 18-year career firefighter with the New York City Fire Department, holding the rank of Lieutenant for the past 11 years assigned to Engine Company 311 in South Queens.
“It is a big honor to be recognized,” Kopf said Friday as he traveled to Albany. “ It is unbelievable and it is very humbing.”
Baldwin Fire Department’s then-Chief, Karen Bendel, who was the first to arrive on the scene of the “uncontrolled fire” and transmitted the “Signal 10” (working fire) had nominated Kopf for the honor.
Bendel noted, “Kopf arrived in his personal vehicle ... and conducted a search. Kopf located a 56-year-old male in the fire apartment and successfully removed him with assistance to awaiting EMS personnel outside,” he said.
And, former captain Frederick Dirmeir, with the Baldwin Ladder Company 2 recommended Kopf as well, saying that “he negotiated the fire apartment in zero visibility, blistering heat and without the benefit of a partner to carry out this successful rescue.
“Due to the imminent life threat to the victim he knowingly passed the fire room without the protection of a hand line, in a rapidly deteriorating environment,” he said. “Kopf acted in the highest traditions of the Fire Service and without regard to his own personal safety.”
Kopf recalled learning from police that someone was trapped inside.
“I went up there and there was another fireman at the top of the stairs and I said, ‘I am going to go past the fire, if you can’t control this you have to let me know.’ I went through and found the guy,” Kopf said.
He carried him out of the room and then handed him off to three other firefighters, Tom Ryley, from Ladder 2, Joe Gerdino, formely with Baldwin Ladder 2, and Ed Moore, from Baldwin Truck 1.
Despite Kopf’s heroic action, the victim died two days later.
Kopf will also receive Baldwin Fire Department’s Distinguished Service Award at the department’s headquarters later this year.
Kopf’s son, Kevin, 17, along with about a dozen volunteer firefighters from Baldwin Fire Department’s Ladder 2 Company are expected at the award presentation ceremony in Albany at The Desmond Hotel.