One of New York’s Bravest died from a medical episode that was likely heart failure at his firehouse in Queens Wednesday night, according to the authorities.
Firefighter Jesse Gerhard, 33, a seven-year veteran of the FDNY, collapsed while on duty at Ladder Company 134 in Far Rockaway at around 11 p.m. on Feb. 16.
His fellow firefighters rushed to perform emergency medical care and he was brought to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital where he died.
Gerhard had responded to a multi-story residential building fire on Beach Channel Drive Tuesday, officials said, and was assigned as an “irons” man in charge of forcing entry into a building when doors are locked to rescue victims.
“It was a very hot and smoky fire, there was a lot of fire on multiple floors of the building,” said FDNY’s Chief of Operations John Hodgens during a press briefing at City Hall Thursday morning. “It’s a very strenuous position to be in, probably the most strenuous of all the different positions that we do work in.”
Officials have yet to determine the cause of death, but Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday that it was “potential heart failure,” and acting Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh noted that heart attacks are the top cause of death for firefighters.
“Heart attacks are the number one cause of firefighter deaths nationwide, so I think it’s important to note, it is a very strenuous job and dangerous in that way as well,” Kavanagh said.
Mayor Adams joined leaders of the Fire Department for a media briefing after visiting Gerhard and his mourning family at the hospital.
“Being at the hospital last night where young Jesse was lying there after losing his life — the entire city mourns for the loss of this firefighter, a young man that dreamed to be a firefighter all his life,” said Mayor Adams.
Gerhard, who lived in Long Beach, Long Island, joined the Department in 2014 as an Emergency Medical Technician and was first assigned to Station 10 in Manhattan before moving to Station 47 in Far Rockaway.
He entered the Fire Academy in late 2017 and graduated in April of 2018, joining Engine Company 264 as a firefighter on the Rockaway peninsula, before transferring to Ladder Company 134 in the same firehouse in March 2020.
He once received honors for bravery in his career and he is the 1,156th member of the FDNY to die in the line of duty, according to the agency.