A version of this story appeared in Newsday, Jan. 12, 2009

Two elderly nuns were rescued from a fire yesterday at the Daughters of Wisdom convent at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, fire and hospital officials said.

The fire, reported at 5:23 p.m., was probably the result of a candle accidentally igniting a Christmas decoration in a prayer room on the first floor of the house, fire and police officials said.

One nun was treated and released from Stony Brook University Medical Center. The other nun remained at the hospital last night in stable condition with burns to her lungs, said Port Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department Chief Fred Leute. Their names were not released.

The nuns were taken to Stony Brook because it has a burn unit, Leute said.

A third nun who lives in the house was not there at the time, said St. Charles Hospital spokeswoman Marilyn Fabbricante.

Leute said two St. Charles hospital security officers were trying to reach the sisters when a pair of Port Jefferson assistant fire chiefs arrived at the convent.

The nuns were trapped on the second floor of the house, Leute said. One of the women, whom Leute estimated to be about 80, was barely conscious when the four men reached her, he said.

Despite thick smoke and intense heat, the rescuers were able to lead one of the nuns out and carry the other to safety.

"I firmly believe that the one nun would have perished tonight had they not done what they did," Leute said.

The Port Jefferson, Setauket and Terryville fire departments fought to bring the fire under control, but were hampered by ice, Leute said.

"It made stretching hose lines much more difficult because you don't have firm footing," he said. "It made access to the roof nearly impossible. "

Firefighters brought the fire under control at 6:09 p.m., Leute said. Damage was contained to one wing of the two-story house, he said.

Fabbricante said the nun who was released from Stony Brook will be given a room somewhere on the St. Charles Hospital campus tonight, possibly inside the hospital itself.

"It will be very comfortable," she said.

"We're just devastated for the poor sisters and our main concern is for their health and their well-being," Fabbricante said. "And of course we're deeply grateful to the fire departments that responded for their quick action. "

The Order of the Daughters of Wisdom founded St. Charles Hospital, she said.

Staff writer Joseph Mallia contributed to this story.


LIers and the Carnegie Hero Medal

Long Island has been home to 10 Carnegie Hero Medal winners in the last five years. They have won the prestigious award and stipend for attempting to save drowning swimmers, or pulling people from burning homes or cars. To read about what they did, go here.

They include:
Derek Merman of Lake Grove, 2009
Edward Bohan, Franklin Square, 2009
Timothy Tonkin, Smithtown, 2009
Neil Maycock, 2008
Mark Fisher, Miller Place, 2007
Matthew Shackles, Mount Sinai, 2007
Brian James Ivory, Oakdale, 2007
Christopher Kelsch, Hampton Bays, 2006
George W. Miller, Copiague, 2005
Christian Hubert, Oceanside, 2005

Latest Videos

Newsday LogoCovering LI news as it happensDigital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months