'A Fireman's Fireman'
Capt. James Amato, a member of Squad 1 in Brooklyn, loved putting out fires. No sitting around the firehouse for him; he wanted to be in the middle of the action, wherever it was. After years as a firefighter in one of the busier ladder companies, he applied for the elite rescue division, so he would always be one of the first people responding to a crisis.
"He liked to be one of the guys who made a difference," said his brother, Lee Amato, a firefighter from Cooper City, Fla. "He liked to get off the piece and run in with the men. He was a fireman's fireman."
The brothers spent vacations together, sometimes in Florida and sometimes on the ski slopes. Lee Amato, the elder of the two, called his brother "my dearest friend."
Captain Amato, a father of four who lived in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., and was a college wrestler, had close calls throughout his life. As a toddler, he barely survived a bout of spinal meningitis. And earlier this year, he told his men to file out of a burning building while they waited for a hose line to be set up. A few seconds after they got out, there was an explosion. "He was laughing about it," said his brother. "He said, 'Timing is everything.' "
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on October 27, 2001.