06-07-2006, 08:52 AM #1
Bravest & Finest Working Together
Here's a story with a happy ending out of New Jersey:
Officers' daring rooftop rescue helps Newark family escape fire
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
BY JONATHAN SCHUPPE
The first thing Newark police officer Anna Zennaro saw was smoke -- thick and white -- pouring out of the Bloomfield Avenue apartment.
The first thing she heard was the screaming -- a woman, a man and children, all yelling for help from the second floor.
It was just after 3 a.m. The firefighters were still on their way.
Zennaro, a rookie cop working the overnight shift in the neighborhood, ran to an iron gate and started climbing to the roof of an adjacent garage. Her partner, veteran officer Charles Good, was right behind her.
On the garage, the smoke and darkness and chaos made it impossible to tell where the voices were coming from. A dog was barking. Zennaro tried to yell even louder, to get the people's attention, and it worked: the man said he heard her.
"I ran toward the man," Zennaro said in an interview yesterday afternoon, hours after the dramatic rescue. "There were the parents and children. We moved them two roofs over, away from the fire."
There were nine of them standing there -- the family of seven, and the two officers --uninjured but stuck two stories up on an adjacent Bloomfield Avenue apartment building.
The firefighters arrived. Some of them went to put out the blaze, and others set up ladders to help the family and the officers to the ground. The family dog, a Rottweiler locked in a cage, was pulled to safety.
A fire department spokesman credited Zennaro and Good for a "heroic" rescue.
"I've got to commend the police officers for their fast action," Thaddeus Kennedy said. "They did as much as they could do with what they had to work with and got the family to safety."
The family -- Angelo Huertas, 37, his wife, Ana, 34, and their children, ages 6 to 18 -- lost everything they owned. They are staying with relatives in Newark and are getting help with food and clothing from the local Red Cross chapter.
"We're very grateful," Ana Huertas said. "The fire and smoke progressed very quickly and we were very scared, but the cops were there almost immediately after we called 911. I was very impressed."
Ana Huertas, a teacher, said her family was wakened by their dog, Grizzly, who is 2 years old, and found their apartment filling with smoke. The smoke alarms never sounded, she said.
When the Huertases called 911, Zennaro and Good were just around the corner, finishing up an accident report, Zennaro said. They raced over.
Firefighters got the blaze under control at 4:09 a.m., Kennedy said. The apartment and the empty bodega below were both destroyed. Officials said the fire started in the bodega, but arson investigators are still trying to determine how.
Six-year-old Anthony Huertas, an asthmatic, and Zennaro were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, but they're both okay. Angelo Huertas, a truck driver, thanked the officers before his family was taken from the scene.
Zennaro, meanwhile, is resting at home with her 8-year-old son. She is 34 and just graduated from the Newark Police Academy in March.
"I'm a mom, so I was just following my instincts," she said. "And it was my training at the academy -- you just do.
"It was, 'Just get the children.'"
She has two days off. Then it's back to work on the overnight shift in the North District.
Jonathan Schuppe covers Newark. He may be reached at email@example.com or (973) 392-7960.
© 2006 The Star Ledger
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