Even after pulling a 59-year-old Bronx man from a burning apartment building — saving him from choking to death — Firefighter Christian Daley never considered himself a hero.
He was just the guy in the second truck.
“When you respond to a fire in a building like that, the first truck goes to the fire floor and the guys in the second truck go to the floor above the fire,” Daley, 44, told the Daily News, recalling that Feb. 10 fire on Fulton Ave. near E. 168th St. in Morrisania.
In a sense, it was the luck of the draw — coupled with FDNY protocol — that brought Daley and his brothers from Ladder 44 to the top of the four-story walkup.
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It was on that floor where a man was in dire need of a lifeline.
When firefighters arrived, the blaze had already eaten through a third-floor apartment, with flames shooting out the front window, Daley recalled.
“The fire was already out in the hallway,” he said. “We were having trouble keeping the door closed, but we had to mask up and go to the floor above and do what we do.”
When he got to the fourth floor, Daley was met with a wall of thick black smoke that was seeping up from the floor below.
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“There was zero visibility,” Daley, an 18-year FDNY veteran, said. “I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.”
Daley — along with Firefighter Michael Patwell and Lt. Vincent McMahon — dropped to the ground and crawled across the fourth-floor landing.
“We crawled to the apartment above the fire, but the door was locked,” Daley, a father of three, said. “We had to force the door open.”
Once inside, Daley heard a moan — a man was sprawled out in the living room.
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“He was next to the couch on the floor,” said Daley. “He was unconscious and in pretty bad shape.”
Daley scooped the man up and got him out of the smoke-filled apartment — ultimately handing him off to Patwell, who brought the victim down the rest of the way.
The tenant spent six days at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center, suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, officials said.
When he woke up, the tenant didn’t remember what had happened — which suited Daley just fine.
“I don’t consider myself a hero,” Daley said.
“There are thousands of guys who do the same thing every day. I just happened to be there.”
For his bravery that day, Daley is being honored as the Daily News Hero of the Month.
“This is my job . . . it’s what I signed up for,” said Daley, whose dad, retired Firefighter George Daley, fought blazes throughout the city in the 1970s.
Daley’s brother Ryan is also an FDNY firefighter at Ladder 42 in the Bronx.
“It’s in the blood,” Daley joked.
“It’s something I always wanted to do since I was a kid, when I used to go to firehouse functions with my dad.”
News of his Daily News award quickly spread across his firehouse on Morris Ave.
“They’re breaking my chops a bit, calling me ‘Hero of the Month’ and stuff, but it’s good, all clean fun,” Daley said. “To be honest, I don’t like to be in the spotlight.
“We’ve done things like this a million times,” he added. “But if we were able to save someone, then that’s a good thing.”
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