At first, he attempted to fight the blaze himself. "I got the garden hose, but it was frozen," he said.
He heard cries for help, and his neighbor and he investigated. They peered through thick smoke and saw the victim standing in a rear doorway, apparently stunned.
Moments after they grabbed the man, an explosion rocked the building.
"I wouldn't consider myself a hero," Mr. Novak said at the time. "I think we did what anybody else would have done."
Mr. Novak served with the Philadelphia Fire Department for 30 years, retiring in 1973. He remained active with Philadelphia Firefighters Union Local 22 after he retired.
He grew up in Port Richmond and graduated from Mastbaum High School. He worked for the Budd Co. for a few years before joining the Fire Department.
Mr. Novak was active in Republican politics, serving as a committeeman, and in the League of the Sacred Heart. He enjoyed deep-sea fishing and liked to restore cars.
Mr. Novak is survived by sons William and Paul; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. His wife of 53 years, Helen, died in 1992.
A viewing will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. today at William Malloy Funeral Home, Byberry Road east of Bustleton Avenue. A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Katherine of Siena Catholic Church, Frankford Avenue and Primrose Road. Friends may call at the church at 9 a.m. Burial will be in Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem.
Memorial donations may be made to the Philadelphia Firefighters Union Local 22 Widows' Fund, 415 N. Fifth St., Philadelphia 19123.
Rusty Pray's e-mail address is email@example.com.