NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Firefighters in the Bronx who dealt with the horrific fire that killed 12 people last week were paid a visit Sunday by New York’s Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan.

As WCBS 880’s Mike Sugerman reported, the always-affable Dolan doled out hugs and hands to firefighters still reeling from one of the most trying assignments of their careers.

“Now is the time to ask for a raise if you need it,” Dolan quipped.

He said he came for all the others who could not come to show thanks and appreciation to the firefighters of Engine 88 Ladder 38.

“But we’re all saying: ‘Oh my God. I wish I could do something. I wish I could do something,’” Dolan said. “I told these guys they’re the ones doing it.”

FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard said this kind of fire in which children died is especially hard.

“These firefighters they have young kids, and it’s very hard for them to separate their home life from where they are here,” Leonard said.

As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, Dolan said he was inspired being in the presence of heavyhearted, but brave firefighters he applauded as heroes.

“In the midst of this tragedy, these guys were there first,” Dolan said. “You see a tremendous amount of outpouring of solidarity, support and charity.”

The fire swept through an apartment building on Prospect Avenue and 185th Street in the Belmont section of the Bronx on Thursday. Five of the 12 people who died were children.

Dolan’s visit was lengthy enough for a meal with the firefighters and photo opportunities. Dolan also sat in the front seat of a fire truck as he was taken back to the five-story apartment building on Prospect Avenue to pray at the scene and bless it.

Behind the wheel was retired Fire Lt. Joe Brosi, who has more than three decades of FDNY service.

“For him to come here with all the hurt, you know what? He raises up the spirits; makes everybody feel good,” Brosi said.

Firefighters are trained not to show emotions when they are on the job, but tragedies like this one hit them hard, and that’s why a visit like this one is so important.

“There’s a professionalism and objectivity while they’re doing their job, but boy, when it’s over, it dawns on them what they saw and what they went through,” Dolan said. “There has to be tremendous grief, because they love their people — or they wouldn’t be in it the service. This is a job that has to be a calling, so their hearts are in — it and it’s got a break their heart.”

Firefighters who save lives – and they certainly did so on Thursday – do not expect thanks for putting themselves in harm’s way. But they appreciate gratitude from people in the neighborhood, and from VIPs like Dolan.

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said late last week that a 3 1/2-year-old boy playing with the burners on the stove in a first floor apartment was the cause of the fire.

Nigro said the fire quickly spread up the stairs, but said there was nothing structurally about the building that was unusual.

Other than 9/11, Nigro said the blaze was “the worst loss of life from fire in almost 28 years.” He said that it was a combination of smoke and burns that killed the victims.

FDNY officials stressed fire safety during Dolan’s visit. They warned New Yorkers to monitor their children at all times and to be sure to close apartment doors during a fire.

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