A true hero, honored for his actions

It is so refreshing to be able to dedicate this editorial space to something, or someone, and simply give credit for a job well done. In this case, a job incredibly well done. We could even say, a job worthy of a superhero status.

We are writing about Millerton’s own local superhero, Frank Duncan, who is probably blushing as he reads this.

Frank is “a man of few words,” as described by his wife, Amiee. Those who have the pleasure of knowing or working nearby him would likely agree (including this editor, whose former Millerton News office was adjacent to the Duncans’ Northwest Lawn & Landscaping Maintenance office on Century Boulevard in Millerton for more than a decade).

Why is Frank worthy of the superhero title?

For starters, on a chilly Saturday morning on Nov. 6 of last year, he was driving to a local cemetery, all set to dig a grave as part of his work for the day. But then Frank saw smoke and immediately pulled his truck off Route 22. Running into danger, unconcerned about his own safety, he attempted to break down the door of a home quickly becoming engulfed in flames. His only thought was to save anyone who may have been inside.

Because although Frank is not a firefighter — and has never been trained in emergency services — he is one of those types of people who thinks of others before he thinks of himself.

When interviewed, Frank said he knew at just before 8 in the morning, people were likely still asleep in bed, possibly caught inside as the smoke quickly turned to flames.

He had called 9-1-1 first. Then, after trying unsuccessfully to break down the locked front door, he ran around the house and tried to enter another way, but with no luck.

That’s when he heard a steady, rhythmic tapping on a window, black with smoke. He then knew for certain there was someone trapped in the home, trying to escape.

Thinking quickly, Frank grabbed a nearby piece of lumber from the deck. With all his might, he swung that hunk of wood up to the second-floor bedroom window until it shattered.

Frank said he then saw homeowner Amy Yang, who was able to grab hold of the slab and slide down to safety.

By then, others also came to help with the rescue efforts. Although it was only a few minutes later, at which time the Millerton Fire Company had swiftly arrived, the house had become a complete inferno.

Frank noted he was unable to ever enter the home, and if he had, he likely never would have made it out alive.

Sadly, Yang’s 24-year-old daughter, Jenny, and another resident, 30-year-old Wangdi Tamang, were inside the burning building and unable to get out safely. Both died in the fire.

The Millerton Fire Company fought the flames bravely under Fire Chief Jason Watson’s direction; the fire was one of the company’s rare fatalities. The deaths were undoubtedly traumatic to process for those 50-volunteer firefighters from around the region who battled the blaze.

Imagine how devastating it must have been for Frank, a civilian, who quietly left the scene once the firefighters arrived for fear of getting in their way.

Frank even returned later that day with his work crew to help assist the Millerton Fire Company and the county’s fire investigation team with clean up and recovery. He said it was difficult. We can only imagine.

But those are the types of things a superhero does, without comment, without complaint and without asking for thanks — none of which Frank has done. He has been beyond humble since the incident unfolded.

Yet somehow the Dutchess County Legislature got wind of his actions. Last week, on Tuesday, Jan. 18, it deemed his bravery so outstanding that it bestowed him with an award — how very well deserved.

The certificate reads: “In honor of your heroic actions on Nov. 6, 2021, at the 2nd Alarm Structure Fire at 5902 South Elm Avenue, which resulted in the saving of a life. Your service to our community has helped countless people and you serve as an inspiration to every member.”

It was signed by Chair of the Dutchess County Legislature Gregg Pulver (R-19) of Pine Plains. There are probably few items that go before that legislative body so swiftly agreed upon; we bet this was one of them, and understand why.

Congratulations, Frank. Thank you for your bravery, your service and your selflessness to our community.

Thank you, too, to everyone else who jumped into action that fateful day and helped with the rescue efforts, including our fearless firefighters and the un-named heroes who helped make sure more people didn’t perish during that tragic fire on South Elm Avenue.

It’s nice to know superheroes do exist.

To read more of Frank’s story, check out this week’s Front Page.

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