Michael Argy thought July 9, 2008 might be the last day of his life.
Argy was asleep in his second-floor apartment in North Syracuse when something -- he's not sure if it was the smoke or a fire alarm -- woke him. Stepping out of his apartment, he discovered that the building, located at 417 South Main St., was on fire.
The situation quickly deteriorated as the building went up in flames. Argy stuck his head out the window of his bedroom, trying to get some air.
"I just tried to survive up to a certain point," he said. "I couldn't really breathe. The smoke kept getting worse and worse I remember thinking, 'This is the end.' I really didn't think I was getting out of there."
But then he heard the voice of the man who would save his life.
North Syracuse Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Timothy Ellis was the first firefighter to respond to the scene.
"It went out as a typical fire, and based on what was the dispatcher was telling us, I was [just] thinking we had a fire," Ellis said. "I headed out, and when I arrived there, I was approached by a lot of bystanders kind of rushing my vehicle, telling me that someone was still inside."
Ellis, a 20-year veteran of the department, had already requested help from mutual aid departments, but it had not yet arrived. Without the support of a hose line, Ellis decided he had to go in to try to get to the victim.
"I made the decision, and it was a necessary decision I entered the building and made my way up to his apartment," Ellis said.
The fire was spreading rapidly, and smoke filled the building. Ellis became disoriented in the smoke, unable to figure out where he was in relation to Argy's apartment. His anxiety building, Ellis signaled for a mayday, letting his department know he was in trouble.