Early in the morning of March 27, Firefighters Scott J. Folderaner and Anthony T. Wells climbed a ladder to the second floor of a burning rowhouse and paused before entering in an attempt to rescue three people inside.
Firefighter Folderaner said to his partner, "Tony, this is a bad one. If you want to go in, it's up to you."
"I said you're going in, I'm going in," Firefighter Wells said.
Today, at 3 p.m. at War Memorial Plaza, they will receive the Fire Department's second-highest honor, the Meritorious Conduct Award. They are among the nearly 30 firefighters being honored with individual citations at Medals Day '96 for exemplary service.
The call for the fire at 801 E. 22nd St. came in about 6: 45 a.m., and the first units on the scene found fire and heavy smoke at an end-of-group rowhouse.
Firefighters Folderaner and Wells, who ride Truck 7 out of the station on Greenmount Avenue near 33rd Street, were ordered to raise a ladder to the second floor. Firefighter Folderaner, who has been with the department for eight years, said later that it was one of the worst rowhouse fires he had seen. Three people died.
Before the firefighters climbed up, a man shouted that his family was trapped inside. "It was one of those situations where there was a bad fire, and normally we wouldn't go in there, but we both heard the guy screaming that his family was still in there," Firefighter Folderaner said.
Firefighter Wells had been with the department for about a year at the time. Firefighter Folderaner had taken him under his wing, and the two firefighters usually worked in tandem. Neither of them gave it a second thought when, as was their usual practice, Firefighter Wells followed his partner into a building.
Once they were inside the rowhouse, there was so much smoke that they had to search primarily by feel. Firefighter Folderaner found an adult woman in the room. Firefighter Wells found two young boys and handed one of them, a 5-year-old, to other firefighters on the porch roof outside the window. By then, the fire had been extinguished and the two firefighters were able to take the other two victims down the stairs inside the house.
The three victims, a mother and her two sons, ages 5 and 8, died of their injuries.
Both men seemed a little embarrassed by the recognition they are receiving. "You just do what you're trained to do," Firefighter Wells said. "We just basically did our job."
The ceremony will include a tribute to Eric D. Schaefer, a %J firefighter who died while fighting a September blaze at Clipper Mill Industrial Park. A painting of the firefighter by one of the artists who worked at Clipper Mill will be unveiled and later hung at the fire station at Eutaw and Lombard streets, where he worked.
The street on the Lombard Street side of the fire station will be renamed Eric Schaefer Way.
Pub Date: 5/04/96