On August 21, 1988, the weather was warm and sunny. In the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) in the Bronx, routine tasks were being conducted and Multi-Unit Drills were taking place. At 1748 Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, a single story taxpayer stood at the corner of E. 175 Street. The building was 50 feet x 100 feet. The building contained six stores, four fronting on Jerome Avenue, and two fronting on East 175 Street. In the cellar of this building, there was an illegal social club called “El Hoyo”(aka: “The Cave” or “The Hole”). The only entrance to this illegal club was off of the Jerome Avenue side. There was a stairway approximately 10 feet from the front of the building. The stairway entrance was flush with the floor and the wooden stairway was steep.
Ladder 27 was the second to arrive Ladder Company. Captain Richard Jacquin of Ladder 59 was working overtime in Ladder 27 for the day tour. Also working in Ladder 27 was Fr. Tom Murphy, Fr. John Clavin, Fr. Dennis Fennell, Fr. Joe Kisonas and Fr. Jim Forsyth. Fr. Murphy positioned Ladder 27’s apparatus on the exposure 4 (E. 175 St.) side of the building. He raised the aerial ladder to the roof. Captain Jacquin, Fr. Fennell and Fr. Forsyth went towards the entrance to Joe’s Auto Repair shop. There were several civilians frantically trying to raise the roll down gate of the repair shop. The civilian’s efforts jammed the roll down gate.
It was stuck and it was only raised 2 feet above the floor. Heavy smoke was coming out of the gate. Captain Jacquin deployed his search rope and he, Fr. Fennell and Fr. Forsyth entered the auto repair shop. The smoke condition was heavy and fire was raging in the cockloft. They made their way toward the rear of the shop. They came upon two large dogs that had succumbed to the smoke. As they made their way deeper into the shop, they found an open stairway. High heat was coming out of the stairway. They descended the stairway, into the rising heat. Half way down the stairway, they found and unconscious man. Captain Jacquin removed him to the outside of the building where he was turned over to EMS personnel that started CPR. Ladder 27’s forcible entry team continued their search for trapped occupants.
Captain Jacquin re-entered the cellar where he found Fr. Dennis Fennell with an unconscious female. He helped Fr. Fennell carry the victim up the stairs and over the obstacles deep in the auto repair shop to the street. Fr. Fennell began resuscitation on the female victim. While Ladder 27 was making entry into the auto repair shop, Fr. Ed Marcoux of Ladder 59 used the saw with the metal cutting blade to gain better access to the auto repair shop.
Captain Jacquin re-entered the cellar for the third time. When he made it down the scorching cellar stairs, he found Fr. Jim Forsyth with an unconscious male. He was struggling to remove him to safety. Both he and Captain Jacquin were able to remove the unconscious man to the street where resuscitation efforts were started.