Firefighter James M. Lafferty Wins Medal for Courageous UWS Rescue

The blaze was on the 6th floor of 55 West 92nd Street.

| 13 Jun 2024 | 02:11

City Hall came alive with the sights and sounds of celebration on Wednesday June 5, as thousands of firefighters and their families descended on Park Row for the annual FDNY Medal ceremony. The event honors firefighters who for exceptional acts of bravery, while also boosting the sense of communal mission that is one hallmark of FDNY.

With many of the firemen in present in their dress uniforms, the event was immediately striking. Likewise, the steady arrival of cars dropping attendees off on Park Row; the sights and sounds of children playing on the lawns beside City Hall; and the various firemen and their families eating and drinking underneath tents before the ceremony proper.

Among this year’s Manhattan-based awardees, James M. Lafferty of Engine Company 76 received the Dr. John F. Cornell Medal for his extreme courage during an August 23, 2023, fire on the Upper West Side.

Running up to the blaze at 55 West 92nd Street Engine Company 76 saw no sight of the reported fire that had engulfed the six-story building’s top floor. They could smell but not actually see any smoke, and the top of the door was glowing white.

The irons team engaged in forced entry. The locked door was hot to the touch, and there were black soot stains all around the frame. Though they were finally to pry the door partly open, heavy smoke billowed from the apartment into the hallway.

Firefighter James M. Lafferty immediately knelt down, probing behind the door.

He felt someone on the other side.

Lafferty heard faint cries of “Help me.”

He was able to communicate with the victim but could not reach and grab them through the narrow opening in the doorway. He knew he had no choice but to find some way to squeeze through, without the protection of a hose line.

Inside, Lafferty found the victim lying on the floor surrounded by carnage. Lafferty positioned his body between the victim and the fire. With the flames now soaring above both their heads, Lafferty removed the victim with the help of another firefighter.

He brought him down the flight of stairs to safety, then made his way back up to the apartment to search for anyone else who might have been inside.


”Each day, our members confront unpredictable challenges that would make most hesitate,” said FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. “Yet, the men and women of the FDNY remain unwavering to their dedication to saving lives. On behalf of a grateful city, thank you for always answering the call.”

Mayor Eric Adams spoke at the ceremony as well, providing his definition of a hero: “Someone that is willing to run towards danger and not away from that. Although you do it in your career, you continue to do it over and over again.”