A day after Lt. Rich Nappi was killed battling a three-alarm blaze in Brooklyn, the 47-year-old father of two was remembered by his fellow firefighters as a "tireless worker" and a "family man."
Purple and black bunting was placed atop Engine Company 237 in Bushwick, Brooklyn, on Tuesday, where captain James Hurley remembered the fallen firefighter.
“A lieutenant like him is hard to find,” Hurley said. “He made my job very easy. He was a tireless worker, trained the men on a continuing basis. He expected a lot out of everybody, but he gave a lot.”
Hurley described Lt. Nappi not just as excellent at his job, but also as a dedicated family man who was “very involved with his kids.”
“He [Nappi] had just gone to the home opener, Mets at CitiField,” Hurley said, choking up. “All facets — he was a good man. He’s going to be sorely missed.”
Lt. Nappi led a team of firefighters, who responded to a fire in a two-story commercial building on Flushing Avenue on Monday afternoon. While battling the fire, he became overheated and collapsed. He had a “cardiac event” and later died at Woodhull Hospital, city officials said.
The results of an autopsy done Tuesday was inconclusive, the medical examiner said.
Lt. Nappi is the first firefighter to die on the job since the summer of 2009. The cause of the fire is still being investigated.
Ed Hiler, another firefighter from Engine 237, who was battling the fire with Lt. Nappi, said there was a “lot of smoke,” and that “it was very hot.”
Lt. Thomas Minelli, who worked closely with Lt. Nappi, said he was “a firefighter’s firefighter,” who led by example.
“Rich always had a smile,” Minelli said. “He loved being in the firehouse. He loved protecting the city of New York.”
Nappi, a Bronx native joined the department in 1994. On September 11, he was assigned to Duane Street.
“He responded with valor to the World Trade Center attacks,” the Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday. "In the days that followed, he helped save and rebuild our city in ways that all New Yorkers – in fact, people all over the world – understand."
FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano worked with Nappi in Manhattan. "He was an extraordinary firefighter and an extraordinary fire officer. He was a leader that people would follow...He was dedicated, he was brave, he was committed to the fire service," he said.
It wasn't just co-workers who paid respect to Nappi. Joanne Bascetta, 50, a neighbor who lives down the block from the firehouse, did not know the fallen firefighter, but came to pay respects to Nappi, bringing a red candle and a white rose.
"My heart dropped," she said, describing the moment she heard of his death.
Nappi lived with his wife and two children — a 12-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son — in Suffolk County.
“They were in love, lived together and had kids, and all of a sudden he’s gone,” Bloomberg said. "This is a very tragic day for NYC—somebody who devoted his life to keeping us safe is no longer with us,” Bloomberg said.
Before joining the FDNY, Nappi was a Parole Officer for the state and also worked as a case worker for Suffolk County's Department of Social Services. Nappo was also a volunteer firefighter and Deputy Chief Instructor with the Suffolk County Fire Academy.