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.