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Paul Gill: An Early Trial by Fire

Several years before he became a firefighter, Paul Gill was walking down the street in Astoria, Queens, when a woman started screaming in a burning building. Smoke poured from the window as the woman clutched a baby and cried for help. With no firefighter in sight and everyone else standing around, Mr. Gill climbed the fire escape, took the baby in his arms and led the woman to safety.

He was a carpenter at the time, but the incident firmed his desire to join the Fire Department, which he did in 1999. While his family worried about his safety, he assured them that fighting fires was no more dangerous than carpentry jobs that put him on steel beams 50 stories up in the sky. "He didn't have a fear," said his father, John.

Mr. Gill, 34, managed to blend his two careers, continuing to take carpentry jobs to help pay the medical bills of his two sons, Aaron, 14, who had received a kidney transplant seven years earlier, and Joshua, 11, who suffers from juvenile osteoporosis. "He was both a dad and a big brother to his kids," said Michelle Evans, his sister. "He was patient with Aaron and helped Joshua with sports."

He was also artistic. Though he never took a drawing class, he became adept at complicated line drawings and geometric designs, even toying with the idea of becoming a tattoo artist.

His best-known artwork is a big Maltese cross he designed for the front of his fire station, Engine 54 in Manhattan. Right now, it is covered in flowers.

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