Remembering the 344th Lost Firefighter, and Fire Patrol House #2
The number “343” is indelibly linked with September 11, 2001 — the official number of firefighters killed on 9/11. However, a 344th New York City firefighter was killed at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. His name was Keith Roma, and he was a 27-year old Staten Island firefighter who worked for the New York Fire Patrol #2 at 84 West 3rd Street in Greenwich Village. Roma worked for the Fire Patrol for six years, following in the footsteps of his father, Arnold Roma, who worked for the same unit from 1971 to 1973. But Roma is not officially included in the final somber tally of 343 because the New York Fire Patrol is not part of the FDNY.
Fire patrols were privately funded fire-fighting institutions. In New York City, their existence predates the municipal FDNY by over 60 years. Funded by insurance companies, they operated in large cities throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries. The New York Fire Patrol dates back to 1803 when the Mutual Assistance and Bag Corporation was formed to preserve and protect the contents of buildings from fire and water damage. It evolved into the New York Board of Fire Underwriters in 1839, and the New York Fire Patrol in 1854. The Beaux-Arts style Fire Patrol House #2 building on West 3rd Street was built in 1906, replacing an outdated but still extant New York Fire Patrol firehouse built in 1871 at 31 Great Jones Street.
On September 11, 2001, the New York Fire Patrol commanded three stations and 98 firefighters. Eighteen firefighters from Roma’s Fire Patrol #2 on West 3rd Street rushed to the World Trade Center that morning. Roma called his father to meet him there. While the younger Roma worked in Tower One, his father worked in Tower Two and survived. Keith Roma made at least four trips into Tower One, helping to rescue about two hundred survivors. He was the only member of the New York Fire Patrol to lose his life that day. Roma was the last of the 32 New York Fire Patrol members to lose his life in the line of duty. His body was discovered on Christmas Eve, 2001, surrounded by nine other victims he was trying to lead to safety. He was survived by his seven-year-old daughter, Samantha.
The New York Fire Patrol was the last operating insurance company funded firefighting unit. It ceased operations in October 2006. In 2010, 84 West 3rd Street was sold to Anderson Cooper for $4.3 million. He conducted a massive interior renovation and complete facade restoration of the 8,240 square foot property. GVSHP applied for landmark designation in 2006, and had the building and its surroundings listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2010. In 2013 GVSHP led the campaign to successfully preserve this building as part of the South Village Historic District.