As a Building Burned in NYC, This Soldier Braved the Flames to Rescue Neighbors

Private Emmanuel Mensah joined the Army National Guard to help people. While he was back home during the holidays, he made the ultimate sacrifice as he attempted to rescue his neighbors when their apartment building went up in flames this week, an incident Mayor Bill de Blasio said was the city’s deadliest fire in over 25 years.

According to Mensah’s father, Kwabena, as reported by CNN, the soldier twice went back in the building to help rescue his neighbors, but Mensah didn’t make it out of the blaze alive.

“Private Emmanuel Mensah was a first-generation immigrant, a soldier and a New Yorker,” said de Blasio on Saturday. “He gave his life rescuing his neighbors in the Bronx fire. His heroism exemplifies the best of our city. Rest in peace.”

The fire was started by a child, who was playing with a kitchen stove. The flames quickly spread through the building, which consisted of 29 apartments. At least 12 people were killed, including four children.

Mensah, 28, was a member of the New York National Guard and had just completed boot camp, holding the rank of private first class, said spokesman Eric Durr. He was scheduled to begin advanced individual training in 2018 and was training to become a military police officer.

Visiting home for the first time since he enlisted, Mensah was in the building when the fire erupted, which began in a first floor apartment when a 3-year-old boy, who was playing with stove burners, accidentally started the blaze.

When the boy’s mother fled the apartment with her children, she left the door to her apartment open, which allowed the fire to spread more quickly.

Kwabena heard of his son’s heroic actions from those Mensah had guided to safety. Mensah left and reentered the building twice, but “on the third time, he couldn’t find his way out,” said Kwabena.

Mensah’s father wasn’t surprised by his son’s willingness to come to the aid of those in need. “That’s his nature,” said Kwabena before receiving confirmation that his son did not survive. “He wants to help people out.”

After learning of Mensah’s death, Kwabena stated, “As a father, you always have to feel sad when you get such news about your son, and I thought maybe he’s coming back.”

“But, unfortunately, it turns out the other way.”