Christopher Siedenburg, Class of 1987

"No matter what happens, this is still the greatest job in the world­ - helping people." That is what 25-year-old Chris Siedenburg told the emergency medical technician en-route to Cornell University Burn Center after sustaining injuries while battling a fire at 62 Watts Street in Manhattan on March 28, 1994. Chris died the following day.

The Watts Street Fire, as it is known throughout the FDNY and fire services around the world, also claimed the lives of Captain John Drennan and Firefighter James Young. The three men were searching for residents of the building who were reportedly trapped by the fire.

A lifelong resident of Great Kills and a parishioner of St. Clare's, Chris saw fighting fires as the finest expression of his greatest goal, helping people. He graduated  from Monsignor Farrell in 1987 and was a member of the band and the stage crew. He also competed in intramural football, basketball, and bowling.

Chris also belonged to the Volunteer Heart Resuscitation Unit of Staten Island (VHRU) and trained as a State Emergency Medical Technician. The many hours that he devoted to the VHRU each week earned him both awards and recognition.

As soon as he was eligible, Chris entered the FDNY training  program. After passing the written test, he achieved a perfect score on the highly challenging physical exam. On September 8, 1991, he became a New York City Firefighter, and was assigned to Engine 24 in Greenwich Village. He continued to volunteer with the VHRU on his days off.

On the night of March 28, 1994, Chris was working in Ladder Company 5 (housed with Engine 24). Shortly after 9pm, they received a call for a report of heavy smoke and sparks from a chimney of a three-story apartment building at 62 Watts Street.  Working as the inside team of the second due truck company, Captain John Drennan, accompanied by Firefighters Siedenburg and James Young, went to the second floor (above the fire) to begin a search of the upper floors. As they conducted their search for victims, they were trapped by an explosion and rapid fire progression from the first­ floor apartment up the common stairwell.

Both Chris and Firefighter Young succumbed to their injuries within 24 hours.  Captain John Drennan passed away 40 days later.

In 2001, Siedenburg Park on Greaves and Dewey Avenues on Staten Island was dedicated to celebrate Chris Siedenburg's life and remember his courage and his generosity of spirit.

Chris was posthumously inducted into the Monsignor Farrell Alumni Hall of Fame Wall of Valor in 2016.

Video of Chris at his firehouse Courtesy of Sean Sullivan '87


 "Watts Street Fire Heroes." Oil on canvas. Michael Molly, 1995.  L to R: FF Christopher J. Siedenburg, Captain John J. Drennan, FF James F. Young.


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