Rescue, Award Get Fireman’s Career Off to Early Start

Times Staff Writer

Michael Marczynski will receive the Award of Valor from the California State Firemen’s Assn. Monday for rescuing a 72-year-old woman from a burning house in Palms--five months before he actually obtained a job as a firefighter with the Santa Monica Fire Department.

Marczynski, 25, saved the woman’s life last year by breaking down the jammed front door to her house in Palms. He found her huddled in a corner of the smoke-filled living room, picked her up and passed her through the living room window to two men waiting outside the house.

He then tried to find the woman’s dog, but was forced out of the house when flames reached the living room. By that time, Los Angeles Fire Department units had reached the scene and begun fighting the fire, which had spread to the roof of an adjoining house. The Los Angeles firefighters rescued the dog from a bedroom.

Marczynski had happened on the May 10, 1984, fire on his way to his job as a warehouseman, a position he held until hired as a full-time Santa Monica firefighter last October.

“I guess we all have delusions of grandeur,” Marczynski said in an interview. “But you don’t think about doing something out of the ordinary. At the time, my primary concern was to do everything right.”


Ettore Berardinelli, Marczynski’s battalion commander in the Santa Monica Fire Department, said that he was being too modest.

“He did not make a false step,” Berardinelli said. “When he got to the scene, he made sure that someone had reported the fire to the Fire Department, determined that someone was in the house and then went after her.”

Berardinelli said that two other men were trying to enter the house, but were frustrated because the front door was hidden behind plywood, apparently to make it look as if there were no front entrance to the house.

Marczynski, a Venice resident who lifts weights in his spare time, tore away the plywood, broke open the door with a cinder block, then had to remove a chair and other items piled against it on the inside before he could enter the house.

Berardinelli said that Marczynski had lived out a fireman’s dream.

“I would guess that 99% of the people who become firemen hope that someday they will be in a position to save someone’s life that way,” Berardinelli said. “Mike got the chance--and lived up to it in every way.”

Now a fireman on a paramedic unit, Marczynski said that his main concern is passing his one-year probation to achieve permanent status with the department.

His probation period ends Oct. 14. Berardinelli said that he should stop worrying.