About to be intubated, New Haven firefighter told his mom 'remember that I love you'

New Haven firefighter Lt. Samod

New Haven firefighter Lt. Samod “Nuke” Rankins and his close friend, retired firefighter Garry Tinney.

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New Haven firefighter Lt. Samod “Nuke” Rankins gave his mother “marching orders” with a pen and pad from his hospital room Thursday, according to his close friend, retired firefighter Garry Tinney.

Any kind of orders from Rankins are welcome, as many feared he might not survive.

“His mind is working great," said Tinney, the vice president of the International Association of Black Firefighters. “He’s being Nuke.”

It was welcome news to people across New Haven who have followed updates on the young firefighter’s condition since he was taken to Bridgeport Hospital with injuries from the fire on New Haven’s Valley Street that killed his colleague.

 

From left to right: Sam Rankins Sr., New Haven firefighter Lt. Samod

From left to right: Sam Rankins Sr., New Haven firefighter Lt. Samod “Nuke” Rankins, his mother, Novella Guiont, retired firefighter Garry Tinney, and retired Capt. Shelly Carter.

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Rankins works tirelessly to help the homeless, the schoolchildren, the hungry and the marginalized as a champion of civil rights and fairness within the ranks and even to aspiring firefighters who want to get hired, those who know him say.

“He’s got a phenomenal soul," Tinney said. "He has a heart of gold. ... He’s a saint,” “He’s touched lives - black, white, Hispanic. He’s found a way to make a difference.”

Rankins began breathing on his own Thursday, and gave fellow firefighters visiting virtually from another room hand signals to say 'I'm good.'

Samod Rankins, a lieutenant with the New Haven Fire Department, speaks at a press conference Friday about the city's proposed lottery system to break a 99-way tie on the entrance exam for new firefighters.

Samod Rankins, a lieutenant with the New Haven Fire Department, speaks at a press conference Friday about the city's proposed lottery system to break a 99-way tie on the entrance exam for new firefighters.

Ben Lambert / Hearst Connecticut Media

Rankins is clear-headed and functioning well, Tinney said — although not recovered. He was critically injured Wednesday in a 12:45 a.m. fire in the 100 block of Valley Street.

Torres, a close friend of Rankins, died fighting the fire. Rankins was distraught Thursday to learn of his death.

Rankins, a New Haven resident, has been a firefighter for little more than three years and rose through the ranks quickly.

Doctors are telling Rankins not to talk, as his throat and lungs are healing, and so he is not, Tinney said.

“He’s determined, and that’s his spirit,” Tinney said.

Rankins’ mom, Novella Guiont, saw him at the hospital the morning of the fire as a he was about to be intubated.

He told her, “If I don’t make it, remember that I love you,” she said, through Tinney. He added, “Mom, you know you’re my number one girl.”

Rankins, who comes from a close-knit family of churchgoers, was so worried about his mother after he was injured that once he was at the hospital on a stretcher and gained some awareness after being unconscious, he contacted Tinney through Facetime to say, “Call my mother,” then Facetimed him again to remind him and yelled out her number.

In a note written on a pad Thursday morning, he told his mom that he wanted to see Tinney and his fellow firefighters. On Thursday, Tinney and a group of Bridgeport Firebirds visited Rankins at Bridgeport Hospital.

“One of his big concerns was about the other men," Tinney said. “That’s been his priority, and that tells you something about him and his spirit.”

New Haven Fire Union Local 825 President Patrick Cannon, right, speaks during a press conference Wednesday, May 12, 2021 at New Haven Fire headquarters where Fire Chief John Alston identified the firefighter who died fighting a blaze earlier Wednesday as Ricardo Torres Jr. A second firefighter, Lt. Samod

New Haven Fire Union Local 825 President Patrick Cannon, right, speaks during a press conference Wednesday, May 12, 2021 at New Haven Fire headquarters where Fire Chief John Alston identified the firefighter who died fighting a blaze earlier Wednesday as Ricardo Torres Jr. A second firefighter, Lt. Samod “Nuke” Rankins, was hospitalized, Alston said.

Peter Hvizdak / Hearst Connecticut Media

Rankins and fellow firefighter Ricardo Torres Jr. were pulled from the fire after each made 'mayday' calls indicating distress.

The two were found unconscious on the second floor of the building, Chief John Alston said. Firefighters rescued two residents who were trapped inside the home.

The New Haven community, as well as the firefighter community, have expressed grief over the death of Torres and the critical nature of Rankins’ injuries, as he is so loved and respected.

Torres was the first New Haven firefighter to die in the line of duty in more than a decade.