A former FDNY firefighter made a living by saving lives, but it was his quick action aboard a Spirit Airlines flight from Dallas to Orlando that may have helped save many more.
Spirit Airlines Flight 259 was diverted to an airport in Jacksonville, Florida, after a battery from a passenger's item caught fire in an overhead bin, airline officials said.
Rocco Chierichella, a retired FDNY firefighter of Engine 19, now residing in Port Orange, Florida, jumped into action when his wife woke him up screaming "fire."
The ex-firefighter, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, woke up instantly, smelled the smoke and ran towards the origins of the fire.
Describing the smoke fire and fire, Chierichella says, "I kind of took charge, that's my nature."
As other crewmembers tried to extinguish the fire, Chierichella used his own hands to pat down the smoke-filled backpack.
Chierichella says he realized what it was.
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"It was some kind of electrical device with a battery attached to withstand wire," he said. "So, my initial instinct was like, what is that, you know, you know, post 9-11 world you gotta wonder."
Officials later told him that it was a vape pen charger that caused the fire.
Once crewmembers were able to control the situation, Chierichella went back to his seat. He and several others were taken to an area hospital for evaluation.
Chierichella suffered second degree burns. Fortunately, aside from the minor injuries, the plane landed without incident.
He says he is "grateful for the crewmembers and pilot" and for making it on the ground safely.
Spirit Airlines offered him transpiration and reimbursement for his flight.
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