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Bare-footed Ventnor teen with extinguisher does 'heck of a job' holding back house fire

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AC Press

By MARTIN DeANGELIS Staff Writer, 609-272-7237 | Posted: Friday, August 7, 2009 | 0 comments

VENTNOR - John Gigliotti was still unpacking his truck after getting home from a trip to Florida when he heard his mother yelling that their neighbor's house was on fire. John grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran up the street.

The first thing he saw, when got into the house a few doors away from his on Oxford Avenue in Ventnor Heights, was....Continue Reading

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a guy with his pants on fire.

Gigliotti, 19, blasted the pants with the extinguisher and put that fire out. Then he looked around and saw that flames were starting to spread all around the first floor of the two-story house.

That's floor literally, because what firefighters say was fueling the fire was the polyurethane that two workers were using to refinish hardwood floors in the place. The flames were rising off the wooden floors and starting to climb up the walls, and a mop the guys were apparently using to spread the varnish evenly was also in flames, starting to spread the fire upward faster.

Gigliotti ran around, even though he was in his bare feet, aiming the extinguisher at every burning spot he saw, including a "bucket of something that was on fire" - the polyurethane itself. He says the flames went out whenever he hit them, and Ventnor Fire Capt. Tom O'Brien said after the Thursday afternoon blaze that what the young neighbor did stopped the fire from being a whole lot worse than it turned out to be.

O'Brien said then that he wanted to thank the guy for doing "a heck of a job" - but he couldn't find him. Because, as Gigliotti explained to a reporter Friday, he didn't stick around after professional firefighters got there to finish what he'd started.

"I just wanted to get out of the way," said Gigliotti, a June graduate of Atlantic City High School who had gone to Florida to check out colleges where he's thinking of going.

He remembers that a "cop said it was completely crazy that I even went in there, because of all the flames," but Gigliotti wasn't thinking of that. There was a fire going on his block, and he knows an elderly woman lives next door - he used to shovel snow for her - and he didn't want things to get any worse than they already were right then.

"It came by instinct," said Gigliotti, a veteran bicycle mechanic at Ventnor's AAAA Bike Shop. "I just went in there and started spraying."

But he wouldn't recommend the footwear he had - or rather, didn't have - for fighting fires.

"It was real hot," he said, figuring he was inside maybe three minutes, another reason "why I didn't stay around too long. The floor was pretty much what was on fire."

The injured worker, identified as Lee Nguyen, of Atlantic City, was in fair condition Friday at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, a hospital spokesman said. He was transferred there from the Regional Trauma Unit at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City, where a Margate Fire Department ambulance took him Thursday.

No other information was available on his condition.

O'Brien, the fire captain, said a spark somehow ignited the polyurethane, and the chemical apparently got on the worker's pants and lit them on fire. O'Brien estimated that the house sustained $10,000-$20,000 worth of damage, mostly from smoke and water.

E-mail Martin DeAngelis:

 Posted in Breaking, Atlantic on Friday, August 7, 2009 8:35 pm Updated: 8:43 pm.
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