City of Russell Fire Department Receives DiBernardo Memorial Foundation Grant

Fire Department Receives DiBernardo Memorial Foundation Grant
Fire Department Receives DiBernardo Memorial Foundation Grant

The City of Russell Fire Department has been awarded an $11,830 grant to purchase bail out devices to be used in immediate life safety threats for firefighters fighting fires on elevated surfaces.

The mission of the Lieutenant Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation is to provide fire departments in need with safety training and personal life safety systems.

Joey DiBernardo was a New York City Fire Department member. In January 2005, DiBernardo responded to a tenement fire in the Bronx with Rescue 3. This day would come to be known as Black Sunday in FDNY history as three firefighters died that day in the line of duty. Due to illegal partitions and blocked fire escapes, Ladder Company 27 and Rescue 3 became trapped on the top floor of this Bronx tenement. Surrounded by fire with no way out and running out of air, they were forced to jump out the rear windows to the yard five stories below. Tragically, two members of Ladder 27 died on impact and two others were critically injured. Jeff Cool of Rescue 3 was trapped at one window and DiBernardo was trapped in the adjoining room. With fire blowing out over their heads, Cool, who had his personal rope, heroically told DiBernardo he had no place to tie off his rope but he would lower DiBernardo. In response DiBernardo yelled back to Cool, "…I'm single, you have a wife and kids…throw me the rope, and I'll lower you…" With only seconds left, Cool threw DiBernardo the rope, and DiBernardo tied it around his arm, and Cool leaped out the window. As Cool swung out he lost control of the rope and landed in the alley below, critically injured. DiBernardo then tied off on a child safety guard and went out the window as the room exploded in fire. DiBernardo's rope broke and he fell four stories to the recessed rear courtyard. He broke practically all the bones from his waist down and shattered both feet. In the hospital he suffered respiratory arrest and developed pneumonia, nearly dying twice while hospitalized. DiBernardo's long hospitalization was followed by a stay at a rehabilitation facility where he had to learn to walk again. During DiBernardo's extended recovery he was promoted to Lieutenant.

DiBernardo and the other survivors initiated a campaign for the issuance of personal life safety ropes for all members of FDNY and, as a result of this fire, FDNY did reissue ropes to all its members. DiBernardo and the other survivors regularly spoke out around the country for firefighters' safety. Despite his injuries, DiBernardo was a popular fire instructor.

DiBernardo continued to live in great pain every day of his life from all his injuries and passed away November 22, 2011 as a result of the injuries suffered on Black Sunday.

Go to to learn more about DiBernardo.

DiBernardo's sacrifice demonstrated the need for life safety devices to be in the hands of all firefighters. Firefighters can become trapped unexpectedly due to collapse, flashover, backdraft and more and need to be able to escape fast. Sometimes, the only way out is through a window. These devices can be deployed in seconds, securing to a window frame and to the firefighters bunker gear. Once secured, the firefighter will bail out the window and lower themselves to safety. In extreme cases, they may also be used to lower victims down to firefighters waiting on the outside of the structure.

With these life safety systems, firefighters are given an essential tool in helping them return home safely.

The City of Russell Fire Department would like to thank the Lieutenant Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation for the generous donation.

(Information and photo courtesy City of Russell Fire Department.)