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Sunnyside Firefighter Saves 3 Kids’ Lives

Brian McGowan, who saved three children also co-owns the Firewater Inn with his brothers (Photo: QueensPost)

May 29, 2012 By Christian Murray

Brian McGowan, a New York City firefighter and co-owner of the Firewater Inn on Skillman Ave., comes across as just another modest, ordinary Sunnyside guy.

Yet, McGowan on Saturday, May 19, saved the lives of three children from a burning apartment building, after crawling through smoke and fire, and then shepherding the kids out from their bedroom.

The whole event occurred before 5:30am, when McGowan’s ‘Engine Company 75’ just happened to see smoke coming out of a first floor window from a 6-story apartment building, while they were out on another job in the University Heights section of the Bronx.

“We got into the building but had to break down the door to the apartment with a halligan [bar],” McGowan said. “There were three locks on it.”

According to reports, when McGowan—and two fellow fire-fighters went in—the fire was rolling over their heads. They went inside and quickly discovered the fire came from a gas leak behind the stove.

“The kitchen was only about 8 feet from the front door,” McGowan said. “We knew people were likely to be inside, since it was early [in the morning].”

McGowan heard three girls crying for help from the bedroom. The children couldn’t get out through the front door due to its proximity to the kitchen—and the windows in the bedroom were “jammed shut.”

McGowan and his fellow firefighters went in and plucked the girls out. The girls, aged 14, 9 and 5, were semi-conscious but were later cleared to leave the hospital. There were no adults in the apartment.

Firefighter in his blood

McGowan, who lives on 44th Street, is from a family of firefighters. His brother James is with the FDNY—and his older brother John has retired from the department. They all hail from Sunnyside.

The 3 men own the aptly-named Firewater Inn (39-46 Skillman Ave.), which is currently being revamped.

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Glo from Ireland

Hey Brian,

You were born a hero! That’s such an amazing story! But I’m not surprised because you are kind and caring and heroic!

By the way, the Firewater is one of the best pubs in New York City, let alone Sunnyside – and the patrons were my friends and family while I lived in New York.

Miss all you guys,


Loved Firewater! Yes – it could be a slightly intimidating to walk into, but once you did the patrons were hands down the nicest I’ve encountered in Sunnyside – really friendly, welcoming, and FUN. Always a good time. I thought the revamping had been abandoned. So happy to hear otherwise.


Agree with local and ditto, I run by the Firewater Inn location all the time and thought it was abandoned and out of business. Would be good to get an update.

firewater neighbor

Firewater pub didn’t look very welcoming. Often they had events where you had to pay just to enter the pub. When it was open there was lots of vomit on the sidewalk and arguments outside the pub plus of course loud music. The patrons behave like they had the right to ignore the neighbors and their right to have quite nighttime. I hope when they reopen the place will be more consider of its residential location.


I agree with “local”-I have been curious about the Firewater Inn as well but to be honest, it didn’t seem all that welcoming when it was opened previously. I hope the owners read this blog and have some kind of grand reopening and invite the neighborhood-I know I would be there.


I know this is off-topic, but I’d love to see a Sunnyside Post update on what is happening with the Firewater. It looks cool, but it’s been “under renovation” for years. I thought it was abandoned till I saw this. So glad it’s not! Would love to see it open for business, and I wonder when that might be… ?


Great job Brian! Many of us have always known how great you are. Now others can see it for themselves. Stay safe!


That’s uplifting!

The Firewater is on Skillman at 40th. That revamping is taking a long time. Open it up and let’s toast this firefighter! That doesn’t sound right, toasting a firefighter. Let’s raise our glasses to our local hero!!

Sunny Skies

Sunnysiders are blessed to live amongst such brave warrior heros. Hope he is ok and I look forward to meeting him in person once the Firewater pub re-opens. Wonder if he’ll get an honorary special Proclamation from the City of New York.

king of Queens

Good job Brian you do our community proud! proud to say this guy is my neighbor.

Mary Caulfield

Good God. No one can firefighters are working for God. You just happened to be driving by when three kids were dying alone? And you didn’t hesitate. I’m awed at the blessings you brought to that family and to all of us. “Thank you,” is nowhere near enough, but thank you.


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