By Matthew Taub
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On June 26th, Lieutenant Firefighter Gordon Ambelas and his company (along with two others) were honored by FDNY Commissioner Nigro, Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, and a family extremely grateful for the FDNY saving the life of their young son, who had been trapped in a role-up gate.
Less than 10 days later, the community was shocked to learn that Lt. Ambelas passed away.
“This tragic story shows the dangers the lieutenant and all FDNY members put themselves in, willingly and knowingly, to save others. They are really the bravest,” said Rabbi Niederman.
On Saturday evening, Ambelas led his members into a two-alarm fire at a 19th floor apartment at 75 Wilson Street in South Williamsburg, searching for anyone who may have been trapped inside. While performing this dangerous work, the Lieutenant became trapped in the fire, and suffered life threatening injuries. He was found unconscious in the apartment by his fellow firefighters, who removed him and tried to revive him, along with EMS personnel. He was transported here to Woodhull Hospital, but, unfortunately, could not be saved.
“It is with deep sorrow that my thoughts and prayers go to the family of Lieutenant Gordon Ambelas,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “Lieutenant Ambelas was a true New York hero. Lieutenant Ambelas’ work was dedicated to keeping the people of our City safe and saving New Yorkers from the most dangerous of situations. He consistently helped the people in our community when they needed it most and hiss loss is tragic. New Yorkers throughout our City mourn his loss and are grateful for his efforts and those of our Fire Department.”
Ameblas, a member of Ladder Company 119 and a 14-year veteran of the FDNY, was promoted just 10 months ago to lieutenant.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened at the loss of one of our own—a devoted, veteran firefighter who had an enormous love for his job and our mission to help and save others,” said Fire Commissioner Nigro.
Called “Matt,” by friends and colleagues, Lieutenant Ambelas was appointed as a firefighter on February 1, 2000. After graduating from Probationary Firefighter School, he was assigned to Ladder Company 81 on Staten Island. In January of 2001, Firefighter Ambelas transferred to Engine Company 28 in lower Manhattan, where he spent one year before returning to Ladder Company 81. On September 14, 2013, Firefighter Ambelas was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to Battalion 28 in northern Brooklyn, where he worked in various firehouses as a “covering” lieutenant. He spent the past several months working in Ladder 119.
“Commissioner Nigro and I just met with his widow, Nanette, who is distraught and heartbroken—along with every member of this Department,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I ask every New Yorker to keep Lieutenant Ambelas in your prayers; keep his family in your thoughts and prayers. We are all very fortunate to have the men and women of the FDNY at the ready to risk their own lives, so each and every one of us can be safe. But unfortunately, tonight, one of New York’s Bravest has paid the ultimate price, and we all mourn his loss.”
Lieutenant Ambelas is the 1,143rd firefighter to die in the line of duty since the FDNY’s founding in 1865. The last member of the Department to die while on duty was Lieutenant Richard Nappi, on April 16, 2012.
“As a veteran of the NYPD, I know too well the danger that protecting New Yorkers can present every single day, and I know that Lieutenant Ambelas demonstrated professionalism and great courage responding to this fire as he did,” said Borough President Eric Adams. “The flags at Brooklyn Borough Hall will stand at half-staff in honor of his life and the sacrifice that he made.”
Lieutenant Ambelas, who lived on Staten Island, is survived by his wife, Nanette, and their two children.