PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — “The only thing I was thinking was, ‘holy hell I gotta get out,'” Lieutenant Nicholas Hudek with Penn Hills VFD Station 221 said.
Hudek was one of three firefighters injured while fighting flames at a vacant restaurant in Penn Hills Saturday. He injured his hand while trying to find a way into the building.
“The quickest way we found while trying to force the door was through a garage door,” Hudek said. “In an attempt to go through it, the ax went in quicker than expected and I cut my hand up a little bit. Threw gloves on right away, went in and didn’t miss a beat.”
He said water got inside his gloves, causing him to sustain some steam burns.
Once he got inside the basement, Hudek and six other firefighters realized they were in trouble.
“We started in the basement and we went upstairs. We went upstairs and met with the other crew. At that point, conditions deteriorated so bad, fire overcame us a bit,” he said.
Things went from bad to worse as the fire moved downstairs quickly, and the crews became trapped.
“We were just [thinking] ‘get each other out.’ The first guy grabbed him, I got disoriented. All I saw was a hand come through the smoke. If it wasn’t for that hand, I would have been stuck down there,” Hudek said.
The on-site Rapid Intervention Team had to go in to help with the rescue.
William Kriedler, of Station 221, suffered burns to the neck. Donny Long, of Penn Hills Station 221, was sent to the hospital after suffering from heat exhaustion.
A rescue pumper was damaged from the heat as was a ladder truck and another pumper from Edgewood.
Hudek says this Easter will be one to remember.
“Unfortunately, yesterday was my birthday so I didn’t get to celebrate with them because of the fire, but celebrated today. It was nice to calm down,” he said.
The other two firefighters injured in the fire are recovering at home.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.