(NEW YORK) — A New York City firefighter is in serious but stable condition Tuesday after being engulfed in flames while battling a fire in a Brooklyn townhome Monday morning.
Robert Wiedmann, 38, of Rescue Company 2 was battling the blaze in a room on the brownstone’s third floor when a fireball sent flames from the back bedroom, surrounding him in fire.
A cellphone video captured the dramatic moment when Wiedmann, with his head and back burning, began waving frantically for help and leaning out the room’s window.
To escape, Wiedmann leapt down onto an aerial ladder, where another firefighter was waiting to pat down his body and extinguish the flames eating through his protective gear, the video shows. Both men then moved slowly down the ladder as another firefighter on the ground showered them with water.
Neighbors watched in horror and then awe, as Weidmann paused to let the steam rise from his body and then moved himself towards safety.
New York Fire Department officials said the harrowing events began as a routine response around 9 a.m. Monday to a fire on the top floor of a brownstone owned by a New York City school teacher and her family. The family was away when the fire began, but Weidmann and his four fellow firefighters did not know that as they searched the home.
As Weidmann remained trapped by the fireball, a second firefighter fled down a stairwell towards safety.
Wiedmann’s injuries included burns over 45 percent of his body, authorities said. The second firefighter was seriously injured and remains in critical condition. Three other firefighters were treated for minor injuries.
Fire officials said the blaze was fairly routine but turned worse when firefighters couldn’t get water to the house fast enough.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Kathryn Vasel, CNN
Doug Criss, CNN
Matt Egan, CNN
Aaron Smith and Evan Perez, CNM