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FDNY firefighter William Tolley remembered in Queens ceremony

Isabella and Marie Tolley, William Tolley's daughter and

Isabella and Marie Tolley, William Tolley's daughter and widow, hold the sign on 66th Place near Myrtle Avenue in Queens that honors the late firefighter on Wednesday. Credit: Todd Maisel

The FDNY dedicated a plaque and street Wednesday to William Tolley, the longtime New York City firefighter and Bethpage resident who plunged off a Queens roof last year, down five stories to his death.

The plaque, unveiled late in the morning at Engine 286/Ladder 135 in Ridgewood, immortalizes Tolley as a man “who made the supreme sacrifice” when he died at age 42 on April 20, 2017.

The street, 66th Place, near Myrtle Avenue, was then named in Tolley’s honor.

“It’s nice to know that he’s watching over this firehouse and over this community forever,” his widow, Marie Tolley, said at the firehouse.

Also at the ceremony were their daughter, Isabella, who was 8 when her dad died, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“We are gathered here to perform a sacred task, to write into the history books the name William Tolley,” de Blasio said.

Tolley was a 14-year veteran when he was dispatched to 1615 Putnam Ave. in Ridgewood. The blaze began after the occupants lit incense for religious reasons and left the flame unattended, the FDNY has said. Tolley had been assigned to the roof as an outside ventilation firefighter.

In the days after Tolley’s death, FDNY investigators focused on whether Tolley had been jolted from a raised fire truck bucket, an official briefed on the matter told Newsday then. 

Asked about final results of the probe into the death, Jim Long, an FDNY spokesman, emailed: “there is a safety report that is in the process of being printed and sent to the field,” and that the report would be made public “once the field has it.” 

In September, a sign, “Firefighter William N. Tolley Way” was unveiled at the intersection of Crestline Avenue and Acme Avenue in Bethpage. Tolley also served as a volunteer for the Bethpage and Hicksville fire departments.

At Wednesday’s ceremony, FDNY Chief of Department James E. Leonard said firefighters must never forget Tolley.

“That’s how we live on. That’s why we are who we are. Because we can never forget,” Leonard said, adding: “There will become a time when nobody here knew Billy Tolley, whether it’s 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s our goal — our duty to remember.”

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