*3rd Place, Deadline News category, 2010 Press Club Of Long Island Media Awards*
BY ERIK BADIA
FDNY veteran Paul Warhola was remembered at his funeral in Center Moriches yesterday not just as an experienced and dedicated firefighter, but also as a man of many talents.
"He could build and fix just about anything," New York City Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said at the ceremony, held at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church.
In addition to the work he did at the Engine 221 firehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, "he was much sought after on his days off to help the other members of the house," Scoppetta said.
Along with Scoppetta and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 6,500 firefighters, police and emergency responders inundated Center Moriches for the funeral. Warhola, 47, suffered a stroke Aug. 12 responding to an alarm at a Brooklyn apartment building.
Ocean Avenue and parts of Montauk Highway were shut down to accommodate the men and women who stood outside in the near-90-degree heat in tribute.
The heat proved too much for some, as 11 people sought medical assistance and two were hospitalized with minor medical problems, according to FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer.
Warhola’s brother, Stephen, remembered him as a caring person who had a calling to be a firefighter.
He said his brother "was a firefighter before he was a firefighter," recalling that even before he joined the FDNY at Engine 221 in Williamsburg, Warhola and a co-worker helped pull a woman from a burning building on their way home from a construction site.
"He was somebody who found reward by helping others," he said.
Bloomberg spoke about Warhola’s dedication to his family and the Fire Department of New York, but he also highlighted Warhola’s other passion — fishing.
"Striped bass. Blackfish. Flounder," he said. "All the bounty of the sea that Paul caught in the waters not far from this church, and then baked, broiled or pan-fried to perfection in the Engine 221 kitchen."
Fellow firefighter and friend Frank Cleary drew laughter when he said he went fishing with Warhola so often, "my wife said that he was the only girlfriend I was allowed to have."
Warhola, an Eastport native and 15-year FDNY veteran, was also among the responders to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, arriving just as one of the towers came down.
His captain at the time, Bruce Lindahl, who is now retired, explained how Warhola continued to work even after the two towers had collapsed around him.
"He could have evacuated at that point," but Warhola elected to stay, Lindahl said. Along with other members of Engine 221, Warhola set up an intricate water relay system in the streets of Manhattan that allowed firefighters to extinguish fires and search for survivors, Lindahl said.
"Paul’s selfless act and bravery were instrumental in that rescue and recovery operation," he said.
Warhola is survived by his wife, Arleen; a son, Paul, 15; and a daughter, Tiana, 13.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, as the pipes and drums of The Emerald Society band marched down Ocean Avenue, FDNY pallbearers brought Warhola’s coffin out of the church for his final ride on Engine 221.