FDNY LODD 1980, Lifesaving Rope Developed from Tragedy.

The following post is authored by Chief Norman, FDNY (Ret.)

@chiefnormanfdny Instagram. On June 27, 1980, the FDNY lost Firefighters Gerard Frisby and Larry Fitzpatrick at a fire in a tenement on W.151 St. in Manhattan.

The fire had begun as a gas explosion in an apartment of the 6th floor, and heavy fire had extended to the 7th (top) floor of the building. Heavy fire was also present in the cockloft overhead. Gerry Frisby, with a year and a half on the job, had “the can,” and was part of Ladder 28’s inside team, searching for trapped occupants on the top floor. They encountered heavy fire and smoke and were driven to seek refuge in other areas. Ff. Frisby became separated from his unit and reached a window in an interior air shaft where he called for help.

Rescue Co. 3 was operating on the roof venting the spreading cockloft fire. When Ff. Frisby was found at the top floor window, Ff. Bill Murphy (R-3) was first to go over the edge of the roof, single sliding on his personal escape rope, which is only rated for the weight of one person, as a last ditch means of escaping a fire. It was never intended to carry two people.

Ff. Murphy tried to help Gerry reach a fire escape balcony that was only feet away, but Frisby could not climb out of the window due to the smoke and heat condition and a child guard window gate blocking the lower half of the window.

Firefighter Larry Fitzpatrick of R-3 was lowered over the edge of the roof on the larger “roof rope” which was meant for carrying two people. When Larry pulled Frisby out of the window, the weight proved too much for the poorly designed rope, and it snapped, plunging Fitzpatrick and Frisby seven stories to their deaths. Later it became known that the rope manufacturer and the city had known the rope was not strong enough to carry two people.

The tragedy resulted in the creation of new NFPA standards for lifesaving rope manufacturing, care, and operations.

Larry left behind a wife and 8 children. Gerry was single. RIP Larry and Gerry.