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Fallen firefighter laid to rest

It had been almost a year since New York City witnessed such a gathering, but once again, thousands of firefighters from all over the country assembled to say goodbye to a fallen brother from the New York City Fire Department (FDNY).
On Tuesday, June 26, funeral services were held for Fresh Meadows resident Daniel Pujdak, 23, at St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, just blocks from his boyhood home.
Pujdak, a former St. Francis Prep star baseball pitcher, died battling a blaze in Brooklyn on June 21. One of over 60 firefighters who responded to an “all-hands” alarm at a four-story factory building in East Williamsburg, he fell while attempting to climb onto the roof from a ladder. He lost his balance and fell to the sidewalk below, suffering massive head injuries.
The fire was caused by a cigarette left burning on a wooden windowsill, making a minor smoky incident seem far worse than it was, according to the FDNY. Pujdak, who had been on the job barely 20 months, ascended a 60-foot ladder wearing 100 pounds of gear and carrying a heavy saw, to open the roof and vent the smoke, which is standard FDNY procedure, when he fell.
The gravely injured Pujdak was taken to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, where he died, becoming the 1,135th city firefighter to lose his life while performing his duty, and the first since rookie-firefighter Michael Reilly and Lt. Howard Carpluk, Jr. perished in a three-alarm blaze in the Bronx last August.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta joined those who knew Pujdak personally in eulogizing his dedication to the job and the loss suffered by his family and the city.
In the days before his funeral, veteran firefighters were reported to be passing tips to rookies about handling their gear at his wake, held in the Evergreen Funeral Home in Greenpoint.
Despite the tragedy, Pujdak’s younger brother Matthew is scheduled to enter the Fire Academy in September.
Their mother, Christine, and father, Leo, have worked and fund-raised for St. John’s Bread and Life, a Brooklyn soup kitchen, for “over 10 years” according to Tony Butler, the executive director.
“The day before Daniel died, Leo and Christine were going around firehouses, collecting clothing for the poor,” he told The Queens Courier. “Leo ran the New York City Marathon for our ‘Run Against Hunger’ campaign, to raise funds. I think the boys got their love of fitness and sense of duty from him,” he said.
John Castellano, an assistant principal at St. Francis Prep agreed.
“The whole family exemplified the Franciscan ideal of service” he said. Pujdak graduated from the school in 2001, as did Matthew (2006) and older brother Steven (1998).
On June 22, the day following Pujdak’s death, St. Francis Prep was the scene of a promotion ceremony for the FDNY. Normally a celebratory occasion, this year’s event was marked by a moment of silence which brought the entire building to a standstill.
The fallen hero’s family has asked that donations in Pujdak’s name be made to a scholarship fund at St. Francis Prep and/or the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation in the Bronx.

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