CBSN New YorkWatch

Firefighters Use Risky Rope Rescue To Save Brownsville Man From Burning Apartment

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — FDNY firefighters resorted to a dangerous technique to rescue a Brooklyn man trapped in a burning building Sunday morning.

The fire gutted the Zion House of Faith church on Rockaway Avenue and heavily damaged the apartments above.

It also brought together firefighter Andrew Scharf and building tenant Ubeaka McKinney, who are now bonded by a pair of firsts for the both of them.

For McKinney, it was his first fire — and it was almost his last. For Scharf, it was his first roof-rope rescue — so dangerous, it’s rarely ever done.

“Initially we couldn’t even see him from the roof due to the smoke condition,” Scharf tells CBS2’s Dave Carlin.

“It was so smokey,” McKinney said. “It was real bad, I couldn’t see at all.”

McKinney’s grandmother had already been rescued from the second floor. He was trapped in his third floor apartment with a small window as his only escape.

Scharf was on the roof, and decided to get to work. He strapped himself in and was lowered down by a fellow firefighter.

“I told him sir, I’m heavy,” McKinney said. “He said ‘just grab me’.”

“He held onto me as tight as he could and I was holding on to him as tight as I could,” Scharf said.

With the cleanup now underway, McKinney says he’ll stay with a friend, grateful that firefighters first rescued his grandmother before performing the last resort operation to save his life.”

“It is an extremely difficult thing to do,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Sunday. “It is an extremely difficult thing to do. I’m very proud of this team for carrying this out.”

The the last roof-rope rescue was performed in October on the Upper East Side. The FDNY says they’ve only been performed in the city about 24 times in the last 20 years.