FDNY Firefighter Leaves NewYork-Presbyterian Burn Center With a Hero’s Sendoff

Rookie firefighter James Spoto required several weeks of treatment after being injured in a five-alarm blaze that left him with severe burns.

FDNY firefighter James Spoto leaves NYP Burn Center
FDNY firefighter James Spoto leaves NYP Burn Center

On a windy night in early March 2023, New York Fire Department firefighter James Spoto entered a burning building in Woodside, Queens, to search for residents trapped inside. The five-alarm fire left him with severe burns on both arms, and he and eight other firefighters had to be rushed to the Burn Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

“It became clear after a few days that his burns had progressed to full-thickness burn injuries requiring surgical care,” Dr. Philip Chang, a burn surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, told ABC 7 New York.

NYP burn surgeon Dr. Philip Chang's headshot

Dr. Philip Chang

The March 8 blaze that devastated four homes was only the second fire of the rookie firefighter’s career, having joined his unit, Ladder Company 163 — nicknamed the Woodside Warriors — just a few months earlier.

Over the course of James’ three-week stay, Dr. Chang and his colleagues performed two surgeries on him, initially with allografts (skin grafts from donated tissue) that came from New York-Presbyterian’s skin bank, and later with skin grafts taken from other parts of James’ body. Finally, on March 31, James left the hospital alongside his mother and father — and was met with applause by a crowd of friends, family members, and fellow FDNY colleagues.

“He’s been in pretty good spirits, although when you have burns like that, it’s a very rough road,” FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens told ABC 7 New York.

James, 30, is expected to heal completely. “He has a number of weeks of rehabilitation ahead of him in terms of regaining his strength and full range of motion in both arms,” Dr. Chang said. “But we anticipate he will make a full recovery and be able to return to the line of duty eventually.”

Watch James Spoto’s full story here.

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