AMID MASSIVE AMSTERDAM AVENUE FIRE, HEROIC BAR EMPLOYEES RACED TO FIND A BOY UPSTAIRS

e's bar
Eduardo Velasco, Brady Byrnes, and Ralph Green of e’s Bar.

By Carol Tannenhauser

The FDNY arrived at last Friday night’s four-alarm fire on Amsterdam Avenue, between 84th and 85th streets, in roughly three to five minutes, but they were not the first responders. Already racing through two neighboring five-story, residential rental buildings – alerting the tenants to get out – were three employees of e’s Bar, located at street level. One carried a fire extinguisher.

“The original plan was to put the fire out,” laughed Brady Byrnes, 31, e’s manager, not knowing then that it would ultimately take 170 firefighters more than three hours to do so. Byrnes had something else on his mind, too. “I was thinking about this little boy – a red-headed kid who comes into the bar all the time and gets these carroway chips and water,” he said. “I know he lives on the 5th floor, so, when we ran in, I said we need to make sure that family’s out.”

“The first thing we encountered was a guy on the third floor who came running into the hallway, yelling, “There’s a fire in my apartment!’” recalled Ralph Green, e’s bartender. “The second he ran over to us, his door closed behind him and he screamed, ‘My keys are inside and my cat!’ He kept screaming, “My cat, my cat, my cat!” I’m still sick about it,” Green said. “I felt the door and it was red hot. I kicked it and my sneaker melted. Smoke started billowing out from underneath and the sides.”

“We didn’t know what’s going on in there,” said Eduardo Velasco, 38, a runner at e’s Bar, who was part of the rescue. “We just tried everything to let people know what’s going on, yell, “Fire! Get out of the building!”

On the fifth floor, around six p.m., Steve Munroe, 31, was finishing up a day of working from home, when he heard the commotion in the hallway and a muffled yell of, “Fire!” “There was no smoke, no smell, nothing seemed out of the ordinary,” he said, “but I instinctively grabbed my cat and my laptop, and, as I made my way down the stairs, I encountered the guys from e’s bar coming up the stairs.”

Byrne went to the boy’s apartment and kicked in the door. He laughed again when asked if he was a “kicking in doors kind of guy.” “Door probably weighs more than I do,” he said. “I was running on adrenaline. Thank goodness the family wasn’t home. But there’s no going back to their apartment,” said Erin Ballard, co-owner of e’s Bar. “It’s one of the ones that’s completely gone, down to the rafters.”

kim cooper
Kim Cooper.

“You never think it will happen to you,”’said Kim Cooper, the little boy’s mother, standing in e’s Bar on Monday, where generators are working nonstop to dry things out and the smell of burnt wires – allegedly, the cause of the fire – is still strong. E’s plans to hold a benefit for the victims of the fire as soon as they re-open — that could take about four weeks as they are in the process of replacing their ceiling, which was damaged by water.

“All we have is what we had on our backs,” Cooper said, “and those were spring things, because it was that 70-degree day! I’m wearing my friend’s husband’s coat! I look homeless. I am homeless, but I don’t feel it. I feel very loved.”

Our heroes feel that way, too. Social and other media lauded their selflessness. But Eduardo’s wife put it best when he arrived home the morning after the fire. “I love you very much,” she said. “You are my hero. Never, never do that again!”

Photo by Carol Tannenhauser.

NEWS | 23 comments | permalink
    1. Shane Patrice says:

      You guys are my heros. My family home burned down when I was a child and there’s a lot of work to be done in the recovery. I’m a licensed social worker living in the neighborhood & would be happy to help in the effort to support those who are burned out. Please email if I can be of service OonaShanley752@gmail.com

    2. l says:

      Wow! Definitely heroes.

    3. lynn says:

      Great story, these men are definitely heros! I know a young couple who were forced out of their apartments twice because of fire due to faulty wiring in the walls. Aren’t there any regulations requiring landlords to make sure everything is safe and up to date?

    4. MKingsly says:

      Really beautiful story…this is what makes the UWS such a special community..coming together to take care of others…
      Westside Rag, please help to promote the fundraiser when E’s hosts so we can all take a bigger role in helping those effected.

    5. AC says:

      Well written story. Congrats to our heroes and I’ll definitely be there to support the good cause come opening.

    6. ron shapley says:

      God bless you brave men !!

    7. eric says:

      I salute these men for their heroism

    8. CB says:

      Oh, man, bless these guys! I’ve never had a drink at E’s Bar, but I will now, as soon as they’re able to reopen.

      Am so sad for the building’s residents. If anyone knows of a central place for donations (online or, for that matter, physical) please post!

    9. kristina says:

      does anyone know where donations can be made for families who lost their home? clothing, food, etc.?

    10. Allison says:

      Definitely going to eat at E’s this weekend! Brava, you guys!

    11. SS says:

      How many in the family? Clothing sizes? How old is the little boy?

    12. Beth says:

      So proud of the staff of E’s, our own local heroes! They are the best!!!

    13. Lisa says:

      Those guys are HEROES!!!!!! Great story. I am sorry about the cat, though.

    14. Rita says:

      Great guys!!!! 👍
      What and where can we donate to help these families??
      Please let us know.

    15. Natali says:

      Did the cat make it?

      And yes, where can we donate?

    16. Gonne says:

      Great story! is it true that the cat didn’t make it?

    17. Love this story and glad all were safe. Will be looking for you at E bar to buy you a drink.

    18. 72nd Streeter says:

      Yes please share donation info!

    19. Paris Wyome says:

      Are you going to respond to the questions below? I am sure many persons would like to know where to donate clothing, etc. and otherwise help the displaced persons.

    20. kami says:

      Honorable men! We need more people like this is todays world. Also, support small business, once their Bar re-opens.
      Please update with any information regarding donations for the displaced residents.

    21. Erin says:

      Thank You Everyone! We launched a Go Fund Me Account for the tenants today. https://www.gofundme.com/HELPe-sBARNeighbors
      Much Love,
      Erin, Ethan and the e’s BAR Crew

    22. Paige Kelly says:

      I would like to help