It wasn’t exactly a routine fire, the kind of call that Capt. Mike Colonna of the Huntington Manor Fire Department has answered many times in his 28 years as a volunteer. His decision on how to respond wasn’t exactly textbook, either.
When the fire was discovered about 12:20 a.m. on July 4 at a house nearby, Colonna, dressed in shorts, t-shirt and sneakers, jumped into his truck and headed down the street. His firefighting gear was in the vehicle. But when he arrived, “I could see the glow from behind the house. I knew we had something, I could see the whole backside/right side all lit up up through the soffit.”
So he called in the fire but as he did so, other neighbors told him people were trapped in the home. Colonna decided to go in, without his gear, without the assistance of other emergency workers.
But he had one advantage with him, besides his courage. “The house was the same layout as mine. I kind of knew the layout,” he said. So he entered the house and began moving from room to room.
There were, in fact, three people in the house. “I could see a woman at the bottom of the stairs. I pulled her out. I went downstairs to the first level, met a guy, grabbed him, as we were going out, the backside of the house started collapsing and the fire pushed in. The woman (who he had already rescued) “ran back in, up two flights of stairs, so I grabbed her. The fire was coming down the hallway. As I was bringing her down, two cops showed up. They said someone else was inside, and I found another man, who collapsed and we dragged him out.”
Despite having already done plenty of good work for the day, Colonna got his gear and helped other firefighters extinguish the blaze. Vomiting, feeling the effects of the fire, he was checked out by Huntington Community First Aid Squad members. “My vitals were way off,” he said, so he was transported to Huntington Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation.
Colonna credits his training and happenstance for his ability to rescue the residents. “Things just happened, I knew how far I could go,” he said. “Everything just happened to be perfect.”