Missing Retired FDNY Firefighter, 90, Back Home Thanks to Fellow Smoke Eater's Sharp Eye

NY Daily News - August 06, 2017

by CHAUNCEY ALCORN THOMAS TRACY

Firefighters are always looking out for each other, even if they haven’t answered an alarm in more than three decades.

A 90-year-old retired FDNY firefighter who had been missing for 36 hours was safely returned home early Saturday after a keen-eyed smoke eater — 63-years his junior — saw him wandering down a Bronx street.

Firefighter Joseph Pirzinger, 27, was on a fire truck rolling along Claremont Parkway near Crotona Ave. about 1:30 a.m. when he saw a hunched-over elderly man at a nearby corner.

He knew immediately it was Peter Campanelli, who had been missing since Thursday evening.

Campanelli, who family members said is becoming more forgetful as he approaches his 91st birthday, never returned to his Pelham Bay home after driving off to run some errands. The NYPD put out a silver alert, but no one knew where he was — until Pirzinger spotted him from a moving fire truck.

“My grandparents were good friends with Pete and his wife,” said Pirzinger. “When I saw him, I took a double take and I told the (firetruck) chauffeur to stop and let me out. I was screaming, ‘Pete, is that you?’”

Pirzinger and his team took Campanelli back to Ladder 58, where the senior was given a clean bill of health and returned to his family.

Campanelli was a chief engineer for FDNY’s Marine 2 when he retired in 1985 after 31 years in the department.

Firefighters from across the city were looking for Campanelli, his son James Campanelli, 58, a pilot for FDNY Marine Unit 1, said.

“Word went out to every firehouse throughout to be on the lookout for him,” the grateful son said. “They always say the FDNY is a brotherhood and it really is.”