Spring Valley Department of Public Works’ Barry Battle was on his way to a job on Robert Pitt Road in Monsey Friday afternoon when he smelled smoke.
He went toward the smell to 485 West Central Avenue, where he saw a house with a lot of smoke coming out of it. Another man had already got to the house, but didn’t know what to do. They decided to see if anyone was in the house, but couldn’t get through the front door due to all the fire and heavy smoke. They went around back, Battle dropped to his knees and poked his head in.
He called out to see if anyone was there, and noticed a 4-year-old boy sitting on his bed near the door. Battle told the other man, a Monsey-resident named Saul, who didn’t want to give his last name. Saul went into the house and rescued the boy while Battle crawled through the house, even going upstairs, to check if there was anyone else home.
“There was a lot of fire and black smoke. I couldn’t even see right in front of me,” Battle said. “I had to crawl around.”
There was nobody else in the house and the boy has no physical injuries. Saul put the child on the front lawn, and by the time Battle got back outside to the front of the house, someone was with the child and the fire departments were on their way. That man was Andrew Schlissel, a former chief of the Money Fire Department, who just happened to drive by and see a child sitting on the front lawn of a house with smoke coming out of it.
““My firefighter instincts kicked in immediately,” said Schlissel, who’s been with the Monsey Fire Department for 28 years.
Schlissel, pulled his car over to the side of the road, held the boy and called the fire department at 1:30 p.m.
“He was just in shock,” Schlissel said. “He was incoherent. He just wasn’t really saying anything. He was just looking at the house in shock.”
Lou Gordon, chief of the Monsey Fire Department, said he called for extra manpower and equipment from these other departments: Nanuet, Hillcrest, Spring Valley, Tallman, Suffern and South Spring Valley. He said the Sloatsburg Fire Department was called over as standby in Monsey in case they needed more help with the fire, or another fire broke out in Monsey. Spring Hill Emergency Medical Services and Rockland Paramedic Services were called to the house as well.
He was thankful, yet relieved, for the efforts of Battle and Saul.
“We don’t want untrained people going into burning buildings,” Gordon said, “but without those two who knows what happens to that kid.”
Battle said once the fire departments showed up and the boy appeared to be okay and taken care of, he left. Saul came back, but didn’t want to talk much about the events that transpired earlier. He said they just wanted to make sure the child was okay, and that he was very confused when Saul and Battle got him out of the house.
Going into the burning house made Battle even more appreciative of firefighters, he said. It was his first time going into a burning house, and said he works with a lot of firefighters, so he’s heard them talk about what to do when going into a burning building.
“It’s just crazy,” Battle said. “I take my hat off to them because that’s a hard job. The heat intensity and the smoke, you can’t even see what’s going on. That’s a rough job, but they get the job done.”
The firefighters opened up some holes around the second floor to release smoke from the house. By the time the various fire departments started heading out sometime after 4 p.m., the bottom floor of the house was charred from the fire and smoke so badly nearly he entire bottom floor was black.
Gordon said he didn’t know the cause of the fire, and that it is currently being investigated. He added that part of the reason the fire spread so much was because the house had a balloon-frame with plaster and wood lath walls covered with sheetrock and no fire stop. He said he wasn’t sure where the fire started.