National Guard Soldier on Leave Dies Saving Lives in Bronx Fire

December 30, 2017 Last Updated: December 30, 2017

A National Guard soldier home on leave after completing basic training gave his life to save others from the Bronx apartment-building inferno, which killed 12 people on Dec. 28.

For 28-year-old Emmanuel Mensah, his trip to visit relatives in New York for the holidays was his first time home in a year. Mensah had emigrated from Ghana about five years ago. He finally realized his dream of enlisting in the Army, joining the National Guard in 2016

Mensah earned the rank of private first class while graduating boot camp. He also earned a marksmanship medal, and because of his strength and maturity was considered a good candidate for the Military Police. After the holidays he was to decamp to Virginia, and then likely to some war zone overseas.

Instead, he gave his life on home soil, rushing into the burning Belmont building to rescue residents.

Deadliest Bronx Blaze in Almost Three Decades

Mensah was staying with a friend’s family in the Belmont apartment building on Prospect Street in the Bronx when the deadliest fire to hit the Bronx in 27 years started in one of the apartments. The husband and wife got their four children safely to the street, while Mensah rushed back into the smoke to find others needing help.      

“He brought four people out,” said his uncle, Twum Bredu, told The New York Times. “When he went to bring a fifth person out, the fire caught up with him.”

Firefighters put out a major house fire on Prospect avenue on December 28, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)
Firefighters put out a major fire at the Belmont apartment building on Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, New York City on Dec. 28, 2017. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

“I understand when the fire was [going] he was trying to rescue … he had two or three people out,” Mensah’s father, Kwabena Mensah told the New York Post, crying from a mix of pain and pride. “He just came for the holidays.”     

“He helped his roommate’s wife and children, they were trying to come out to the stairs and he stopped them,” the elder Mensah told The Post. “He told them to come out the window. … Then he went in and tried to rescue people out.”

Mensah’s father told CBS2 News he wasn’t surprised to hear how his son died because “it was in his nature. He wanted to help people out.”

The fire started just before 7 p.m. when an unsupervised child turned on the stove in a first-floor apartment.

A woman covered with a Red Cross blanket talks to a fire fighter during a major house fire on Prospect Avenue on December 28, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)
A woman covered with a Red Cross blanket talks to a firefighter during a major house fire on Prospect Avenue on Dec. 28, 2017, in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

“When I wake up, all I see is the flames going up, kids are on the fire escape,” said Belmont resident Rafael Gonzalez. “It was one apartment and then it escalated to two apartments. It just kept going next and up—it escalated.”

About 170 firefighters eventually responded to the inferno. They got it under control in about three hours—but not before it claimed four children and eight adults, one of them being Emmanuel Mensah.

From NTD.tv

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