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Saving lives is in firefighter Nick DiGiacomo’s DNA

When part of your job is saving lives, it takes quite an effort to stand out and do something truly extraordinary. Miami-Dade County firefighter Nick DiGiacomo, a six-year veteran with Fire Rescue, fits that bill.

DiGiacomo -- whose father, great uncle and several other uncles were firefighters -- was part of the Fireboat 1 crew that responded to a marina fire the morning of March 31, 2008. Flames engulfed two vessels, and as the crew began to extinguish the fire, two people waved their hands through a porthole. DiGiacomo discovered the occupants were in a bathroom shower seeking protection with running water.

As DiGiacomo used a saw to break the hull, flames raged and threatened rescue efforts. Fireboat 1 crew members worked to suppress the flames, but inside, thick smoke spread quickly, leading DiGiacomo to remove his mask and give it to the two people in the shower. But the fire was seeping into the bathroom, DiGiacomo told the crew.

The firefighter asked the crew for a hose line, which he routed through a port hole, but fears that the boat would sink or become consumed by the fire persisted. Additionally, the firestream’s water was becoming dangerously
hot from the flames, so the two victims climbed up on the bathroom’s vanity area to avoid the hot water.

After 30 long minutes, DiGiacomo rescued the two people and placed them on Fireboat 1. They were later treated and transferred to a Miami Beach rescue unit.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue presented DiGiacomo with the Silver Medal of Valor for his extraordinary rescue efforts and for risking his own safety by giving his air pack and mask to the trapped occupants. The award is bestowed upon firefighters who have performed an act of outstanding bravery in the presence of extreme danger and performed above and beyond the ordinary call of duty.

“MDFR is committed to the preservation of life and property,” Fire Chief Herminio Lorenzo says. "Firefighter DiGiacomo's heroic actions are a true testament to that and to the dedication of the men and women of our great department.”

Yet DiGiacomo humbly downplayed his brave act, saying it was simply part of his duties.

“It’s great for the program to receive the notoriety. My captain says firefighters are ordinary people put in extraordinary circumstances,” DiGiacomo said. “That’s what we’re trained to do, just doing the job. The heroes are civilians pulling people out of fires.”

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Is this a face you can trust? If giving up his breathing mask to rescue victims from a burning boat doesn't convince you, nothing will.