Fire Lt. Ambelas Who Died in Blaze Remembered for His Dedication
GREAT KILLS — When Lt. Gordon Ambelas came into Ladder 119 in Williamsburg nearly two months ago, firefighters there said he immediately showed his dedication to the job.
The 14-year veteran and father of two who died trying to save survivors in a Williamsburg blaze on Saturday, was remembered at his wake on Tuesday by co-workers for saving a 7-year-old boy from a roll-down gate in May.
"Not knowing what kind of firefighter he was [at first], it became immediately evident," Lt. Matt Komorowski, who worked with Ambelas in Ladder 199, said outside of the wake in Great Kills on Tuesday. "Not long ago, he went out and saved a little boy that was trapped."
In May, Ambelas helped save Mendy Gottlieb from the gate after he got stuck and was pulled 15 feet off the ground.
For friends, it was not out of character for the fire lieutenant. Eric Bischoff, who knew Ambelas before they both worked together at Ladder 81, said Ambelas was dedicated to the job and called him "the best of the department."
"His bravery and dedication to the job — I don't possess the words to describe that," Bischoff said. "It's nothing short of incredible."
During his time at the FDNY, Ambelas was also credited with helping rescue people from 9/11 and the flood waters of Hurricane Sandy.
Hundreds of firefighters, including some from out of state, packed into the Casey McMallum Rice Funeral Home, 30 Nelson Ave., for the first day of the wake for Ambelas.
Ambelas, who went by the nickname "Matt," ran out of air from his 20-minute respirator while trying to find survivors inside a smoke-filled apartment at 75 Wilson St. packed with junk and boxes, sources previously told DNAinfo New York.
The apartment was home to Angel Pagan, who was at a nearby McDonald's at the time of the fire, which started at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. Pagan's three Yorkshire terriers died in the blaze, which was caused by a pinched electrical extension cord connected to an air conditioner, officials said.
On Sunday, Ambelas' wife, Nanette, wrote a post on Facebook dedicated to her husband of 10 years, the Staten Island Advance reported.
"I was lucky enough to call you my husband for almost 10 wonderful years and thank you for giving me two of the most special part of you. Gabriella and Giovanna had the best father in the world," she wrote, according to the Advance.
"How do I say goodbye to you, Matt, you were my everything and the rock of this family... My heart will never heal and I will love you forever."
At the wake, Bischoff said the mood inside the funeral home was grim, but his family was moved by the show of support from the FDNY, and Ambelas would have been, too.
"Matt would be so proud of the turnout, of the amount of love he received," Bischoff said.
"Matt was the best of the best, Matt was the best of the department."
The wake will also be on Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Funeral services were set for Thursday at 10 a.m. at St. Clare's Church, 110 Nelson Ave.