Firefighting Rookie Is a Veteran at Heroism

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--five months before he was hired as a firefighter.

Marczynski, 25, saved the woman by breaking down the front door of 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 outside.

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 arrived and begun to fight the fire, which had spread to the roof of an adjoining house. The firefighters rescued the dog from a bedroom.

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

Doing It Right

“I guess we all have delusions of grandeur,” Marczynski said. “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 Marczynski 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.

Broke Open Door

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 from the inside before he could enter the house.

Berardinelli said that Marczynski had lived out a firefighter’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.