Sometimes the spotlight lands on a New York City firefighter and just stays there. That’s what happened to Thomas Foley, 32, a member of Rescue Company 3 in the Bronx.


He helped rescue construction workers dangling from a broken scaffold 12 stories above the street. “Don’t worry,” he told one of them. “You’ll be going home to your family tonight.” He got plenty of TV time for that, which blossomed into bit parts in “Third Watch” and “The Sopranos.” Then he posed shirtless for People magazine’s list of 100 most eligible bachelors.

“It was one of the most popular photos in that issue,” said Carol Wallace, People’s managing editor.

Mr. Foley, who lived in Nyack, N.Y., started out shy, said Joanne Foley Gross, his sister. But as an adult, he pursued interests like bull riding and hunting and turned his German shorthaired pointer, Maggie, into a field-trial champion. He was “always the life of the party,” said Danny Foley, his brother and a firefighter with Engine Company 68.

When it came to firefighting, “he said it was the best job in the world and he would never give it up, ever,” remembered a cousin, Christina Cimmino. “No matter how famous he got.”

“He never wanted to be anything else other than a fireman,” said Serena Cantor, a former New Yorker who met Foley when he was a boy. “He became a volunteer fireman at the age of 18.”