By Dustin Brown
Firefighters revived an elderly Glendale woman Monday after rescuing her from her smoldering third-floor apartment, where they found her slumped unconscious on the floor as fire raged through her home.
Helen Pfitzner of 70-15 65th Place was listed in fair condition Wednesday morning at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, where the Glendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps rushed her after firefighters brought back her pulse, a hospital spokesman said.
“When we got her down, we couldn't find a pulse and she wasn't breathing,” said Firefighter Tim Coffey of Engine Co. 286, who carried Pfitzner down the stairs and revived her with Firefighter Frank Mitchell.
The one-alarm fire was reported at 4:54 p.m. to the Fire Department, which brought it under control about 20 minutes later.
Capt. Joe Masterson kicked open the locked door of Pfitzner's apartment and led a team of firefighters in a search-and-rescue operation.
“The flames met us at the door,” said Coffey, who searched for victims in the smoke-filled room with Masterson. “We basically felt our way to the back of the apartment. The captain felt her. I just grabbed her by the feet and got her the hell out.”
When they reached the door, Masterson went back inside to keep searching as Mitchell took his place, carrying her down the two flights of stairs to the street with Coffey.
“They revived her – she wasn't breathing,” Deputy Chief Steven Kubler said.
But the ambulance crew had to continue reviving her as they rushed to Wyckoff.
“She was in and out the entire way to the hospital,” said Ryan Gunning, the president of the Glendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
Neighbors gathered on their stoops and along the sidewalk Monday afternoon to watch as firefighters assembled on the street, which is lined from end to end with three-story tan brick apartment buildings.
“Smoke was coming from upstairs. The Fire Department started chipping away at the windows,” said John Morea, 52, who lives down the street from the fire. “All of a sudden you see smoke was coming out of the windows – black smoke – and you knew something was wrong in the apartment.”
Chief Tom Murphy of Battalion 28 said the fire was still under investigation but cited smoking as the probable cause for the blaze.
Neighbors long familiar with the sight of Pfitzner sitting and smoking outside her apartment building speculated that a cigarette may have sparked the fire.
“I see her every day here for so many years,” said neighbor Vicky Kovrig, who described Pfitzner as independent despite her advanced age. “I want to go to the store for her because she's old, but she don't want me to go. She'll say, 'I'm fine. I'll go by myself.'”
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.