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Smithtown firefighters to be honored for heroism by state group

Six Smithtown Fire Department firefighters on Saturday will share the highest award of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York for rescuing a mother and her two young children last year from a home filled with choking smoke.

Timothy Duckham, Thomas Kriklava, Patrick Diecidue, Jennifer O’Brien, Joseph LaRocco and John Hansen answered a 3:13 a.m. call last August to the Hauppauge home of Thomas and Kristen Sidik.

Duckham and Kriklava arrived first and started to search the home and were soon joined by Diecidue. In the dark and the smoke, they worked by touch, feeling for doors, windows and survivors, until Duckham discovered the Sidiks’ 3-year-old daughter in the master bedroom. Kriklava gave her mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths on the front lawn before an ambulance rushed her to a hospital.

As more than 75 first responders from Smithtown and neighboring departments arrived, Hansen, O’Brien and LaRocco joined the search inside. O’Brien found Kristen Sidik and her 3-month-old son in a bathroom, wedged between the vanity and toilet. O’Brien yelled for help. The firefighters removed the infant and then the mother, who were treated outside and then also taken to hospitals.

The children survived. Kristen Sidik, 36, died of her injuries in December at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Thomas Sidik was on Reserve duty with the U.S. Coast Guard in Fort Dix, New Jersey, at the time of the fire.

“The actions of these brave volunteers from Smithtown are nothing short of heroic,” said Firemen’s Association president Ken Pienkowski in a statement. “Their teamwork, perseverance, determination and selfless courage resulted in the rescue of three trapped individuals, and their performance is consistent with the very finest traditions of the fire service.”

Proud department brass said the honorees would represent all 11,000 of Long Island’s volunteer firefighters when they accept the Firefighter of the Year award Saturday in Syracuse at the association’s annual convention. “We probably offer, on Long Island, the best volunteer fire protection in the United States, bar none,” said Smithtown Fire Department spokesman Jeff Bressler.

But even as their peers celebrated them, many of the Smithtown firefighters were somber this week. Some know Thomas Sidik, a Hauppauge firefighter, and have worked by his side at other fires. O’Brien, a recovery room nurse at Stony Brook University Hospital, was a friend of Kristen Sidik’s. The bathroom where she rescued the Sidiks’ baby boy was the same bathroom, late last spring, where she had helped deliver him.

The honorees carry up to Syracuse memories of a night last August that was “devastating for everybody who was there,” Diecidue said.

In interviews, several, like Duckham, sounded ambivalent. “Everybody collectively puts their work together, the training kicks in, and we come to the best outcome that we can,” he said. “I’m going to struggle with it for a while.”

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