Firefighter Joseph Rippert was off duty and asleep at his home
in Roxborough last spring when he was awakened by screams.
Rippert went outside, saw his neighbor’s house ablaze and was
told that someone was trapped inside.
Without hesitation, Rippert bravely ran into the burning
building, found an unconscious man on the second floor and began
to pull him toward the stairs. But soon the smoke became
unbearable, and Rippert — wearing no protective gear — ran down
the stairs to get a breath of fresh air. He then went back into
the house to grab the man for a second time.
After transferring care of the man to responding firefighters
and paramedics, Rippert continued to help at the scene by
carrying fire hose through the front door and advancing into the
home to help fight the fire.
For all of his courageous actions that night, Rippert was
honored as Firefighter of the Year at a ceremony on Oct. 23 at
Fireman’s Hall Museum. And the man he saved, Paolo Gambaro, was
there to thank him.
“He doesn’t realize what he did for me,” said Gambaro, who spent
days recovering in a hospital. “He was just doing his duty, in
his eyes. But for me, he gave me a second chance at life.”
Rippert, who joined the Philadelphia Fire Department less than
two years ago, deflected talk of heroism. He said that any
gratitude should be directed toward his instructors at the Fire
“I wouldn’t be here or have known what to do if it wasn’t for
them,” said Rippert. “I still have a lot to learn.”
Rippert, a married father of two young children, previously
served in the U.S. Army. A carpenter by trade, he donates his
skills to disabled veterans in the community. Rippert is
assigned to Engine 35 in East Falls section of Philadelphia.
Published by the City of Philadelphia, Fire Department Website
October 23, 2019.
Joe with his parents, Laura and Savannah. Courtesy of Laura Rippert.