A video of a Harlem high-rise fire caught the dramatic moment a New York City firefighter rescued a woman clinging to life — both figuratively and literally — as she walked out on the windowsill of her 16th floor apartment to escape the smoke.
The fire broke out at the apartment on Tuesday afternoon. Thick clouds of smoke can be seen cascading out of the windows.
When the smoke became too overwhelming for the woman to breathe, she stood on her window’s ledge with nothing protecting her from falling 160 feet to the ground until FDNY firefighter Brian Quinn came to the rescue.
Quinn, who was at the window a floor above the woman, told NBC New York that he initially tried to drop a rope down that she didn’t take. “I basically stayed at the window and tried to calm her down, and tell her not to jump and that we were going to come get her,” Quinn said.
After the woman refused to move because she was “terrified,” Quinn said, he rappelled down to her from the 17th floor to pull her into a bear hug.
“I tried to calm her down and talk to her and tell her it would be safer to go into the apartment,” he said. “I had one arm inside the window and I was holding onto the wall, and I had my other arm around her waist."
When the smoke subsided after three minutes, firefighters were able to safely bring her and Quinn back inside the building.
Bystanders watching from the ground applauded the successful rescue, NBC New York reports.
The woman was treated for smoke inhalation at the hospital and is expected to fully recover. No firefighters were injured in the rescue, and the cause of the fire is still unknown.
The last time the fire department used a rare roof-rope rescue was back in 2016, according to FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
He praised his firefighters for being quick on their feet.
“They quickly assessed the situation and decided to do something we rarely do,” Nigro said on the department’s Instagram on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a happy day for her, and it’s a happy day for all of us.”