The one thing I do recall is that this was a tough 4 alarm apartment building fire that took hours to extinguish. Somehow I found myself not far from the scene of the actual fire, which displaced 60 people in the middle of winter. I don’t believe it was very cold that day, or maybe it didn’t seem cold due to the amount of heat coming off the flames. Once the fire was out, or almost out, I was able to get close enough to make this image of Brad Panaia, of Yardley Makefield Fire Company who was drained physically and probably emotionally at the time, from the battle. He took off his helmet and gloves, placed them onto a parked car at the scene, and wiped his brow with his hand while waiting for a drink from one of his fellow firefighters. I know I had been on scene for at least an hour and a half at this point. In that time I had the easy scene setters, but I recall hanging because I was looking for something that conveyed the emotion of the day. At the time, I don’t believe they were aware of the death of a 3 year old boy in the fire.
My editors must have though I captured that emotion since the image ran on A1 in the Philadelphia Inquirer the next day. Although for some reason, the only copy I could find in the archives is a black and white.
Every once and a while I wonder whatever happened to Brad Panaia, who, along with all of the firefighters that battled those flames on that winter morning, are certainly heroes to everyone that day and many other days. Out of the 60 displaced, a 3 year old boy was killed while his twin brother was saved by a neighbor who had scaled three floors to rescue the boy, 8 people were injured. 150 firefighters responded to the blaze.
Lucky for us there are people willing to run into the flames. It could have have been worse if not for these souls.