Daily News Exclusive: 'This was going to be it for me'

It happened so fast he literally didn't know what hit him. Firefighter Mike Agostinelli heard what he described as a creak and a boom. The next thing he knew he was pinned to the floor of a burning building.

"I honestly thought this was going to be it for me," he said. Agostinelli was one of three firefighters injured this morning in a blaze at 3219 W. Warren Blvd.

When the call first came in, Agostinelli knew he'd be seeing action.

"Warren has been a block that we've had problems with for the last two years," he said.

When Truck 36 arrived with Agostinelli aboard, the fire was raging, threatening to spread to neighboring homes, one of which belonged to Alderman Ed Smith of the 28th Ward.

"Everybody was concerned about the exposure," he said.

As the fire burned in the attic of the single-story home, Agostinelli and the other members of Truck 36 started fighting it from below. After the initial attack, fire crews began to remove part of the ceiling to look for hot spots.

"It looked like it was pretty well knocked," he said, "but you still have to pull everything down."

Agostinelli was using a pike pole, an eight-foot-long tool with a point and a hook on the end, when he found a pocket of fire above him. With little warning, the back half of the house collapsed, trapping Agostinelli and one other firefighter beneath it.

"There was a creak and a boom," he said. "The next thing you knew the second floor came down on us.

"I don't know if it came from the front; I don't know, it happened so quick. I got a bump on my eyebrow and I don't even remember that."

The collapsed attic pinned Agostinelli's legs behind him. "I felt my ankle break right as the weight came down," he said. "I couldn't get to my radio because my hands and arms were trapped. I thought, 'I'm done.'"

His fellow firefighters rescued him almost immediately.

 "The guys that pulled me out, whoever it was I couldn't tell you, I owe a ton. It's only a fractured ankle, but at that time, I thought I was done. I can't thank them enough.

"I'm just thankful that it wasn't worse and that no one else got seriously injured. It could have been worse. One foot forward and I could have broken my neck."

While the accident hasn't changed anything for him as a firefighter, it has compromised him in his role as captain of the fire department soccer team.

"Unfortunately there was a soccer tournament this weekend," he said.

Agostinelli attended the American Academy of Art after high school, and describes his decision to become a firefighter as a fluke.

"It wasn't one of those childhood dreams of being a fireman," said Agnostelli, 38. "But now that I am, I love this job. I wouldn't give it up for anything."

That feeling hasn't changed since the accident.

"It sounds weird, I know," he said. I guess that's why we're a special breed."

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Alderman Ed Smith represents the 28th Ward. An earlier version of the article listed a different ward.

Discuss

CARL C. ANDERSON, 07-21-2007

I am not a firefighter, but I know Mike and some of the others from his house. They are all heroes! All of them! Though you'll never hear them say it, which makes it all the more true! If I was trapped in a burning building the first thing I would want to see is Mike coming through that door! And thanks to our Heavenly Father, he lived and will be back on watch soon! Thank you Chi*Town Daily for paying a tribute to not only some of Chicago's finest, but indeed the world's!

GEOFF DOUGHERTY, 07-21-2007

Carl,



Always a pleasure to let people know about stories like this. Glad you enjoyed reading it.