Hundreds pay tribute to fallen firefighter
A hero firefighter who died battling a Brooklyn blaze was remembered Tuesday as a selfless professional who managed to fit in with everyone.
Whether he was at home, at the firehouse or in the trenches of a burning building, Lt. Gordon “Matt” Ambelas could always be counted on to be at his best, his grieving friends said.
“He would always come in prepared in his uniform, ready to work,” said firefighter Matthew Komorowski, who worked with Ambelas at Ladder 119 in Williamsburg. “He was a great guy who always had a smile on his face.”
Komorowski was one of hundreds of firefighters who paid tribute to Ambelas at a wake at a Staten Island funeral home.
Ambelas, 40, died after suffering smoke inhalation and third-degree burns while battling an electrical fire in a Williamsburg high rise Saturday night.
Officials said he struggled trying to navigate his way around a cluttered apartment in the smoky darkness.
A large photo of Ambelas and pictures of him with his wife and two young daughters filled the Casey McCallum Rice Funeral Home on Nelson Avenue.
Mourners, including Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro crowded around vivid floral arrangements and tried to comfort the heartbroken family.
Eric Bischoff, a firefighter who worked with Ambelas for 13 years at Ladder 81 on Staten Island, said Ambelas was a simple man who enjoyed simple pleasures.
“Matt would be so proud of the turnout and the amount of love he received today,” Bischoff said. “Matt was the best of the department and he would be incredibly honored.”
The wake will continue Wednesday, and Ambelas will be saluted at an 11 a.m. funeral Thursday at St. Clare’s Church on Nelson Avenue in Staten Island.
Help his children
Lt. Gordon “Matt” Ambelas left behind a wife and two young daughters when he died fighting a fire in Brooklyn — and the Silver Shield Foundation wants to help.
Donations are being sought in honor of Ambelas for his daughters, Giovanna, 5, and Gabriella, 8, as they cope with the loss of their hero dad.
The Silver Shield Foundation helps the children of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty by setting aside funds for each surviving child to assist with prep-school and college tuition.
Donations can be made to: Silver Shield Foundation, 870 United Nations Plaza, 1st Floor, New York, NY 10017.