Firefighter Joseph Rippert III of Roxborough was recently awarded the prestigious Firefighter of the Year award in a ceremony at the Fireman’s Hall Museum in Center City. Rippert, an Army vet, was honored for his acts of courage and bravery in rescuing a man in a burning house on his block while off-duty back in March.

On the night of March 17, Rippert, who works with Engine Co. #35 in East Falls, was asleep at his home on Fairway Terrace when he was awakened by screams coming from outside his residence. After scurrying up the street a few houses he encountered Toni Nocito and her daughter Alissa outside their burning home. They had both escaped danger, but because of the thick smoke and flames inside the home, were unable to retrieve Alissa’s boyfriend, Paolo Gambaro. Gambaro had succumbed to the suffocating smoke and was unconscious on the second floor.

Without regard to his own safety, Rippert instinctively dashed into the burning house and was able to locate Gambaro, but was initially unable to move him as he had started to become overcome by the heavy fumes himself. After retreating to the front lawn, he was able to get his second wind and returned to the blazing house and was able to successfully move Gambaro’s body out of danger until first responders arrived at the scene and were able to employ CPR measures to revive Gambaro.

Rippert stayed at the scene and assisted firefighters by helping to carry a fire hose into the burning home.

Some of the notables and dignitaries on hand to make presentations at Rippert’s dedication were Mayor Jim Kenney, Fire Captains Jeff Neury and Tim Gough, and Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel. All were exceptionally proud of how Rippert displayed such heroism and how this reflected positively on all who serve as first responders and particularly the Fire Department of Philadelphia.

The survivor, Paolo Gambaro, also took the podium along with his girlfriend’s mother, Toni Nocito, and expressed his heartfelt appreciation to Rippert for giving him “a second chance at life."

Rippert was ever humble and gracious in accepting his award, downplaying his heroics as just doing his job. However, he was especially grateful to have an opportunity to share his shining moment in the presence of family members and fellow members of his department.

Joining “Rip” at the ceremony were his parents Joe II and Karen, his wife, Laura, and 2-year-old daughter Savannah Rae. Rippert is also the proud father of a son, 4-month-old Joseph Rippert IV.

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