February 14, 2005 -- A New York Post deliveryman turned hero on his early-morning shift yesterday when he spotted a fire in a Brooklyn building, dashed inside and led seven panicked residents to safety.
Vincent Raffone, 51, had just set off in his truck to pick up bundles of the paper for delivery in Bensonhurst, when he smelled smoke and saw flames leaping from the basement of a home on Bay 50th Street.
He dialed 911 on his cellphone, then ran into the basement, where he found a terrified family.
"I went down the stairs, and the smoke was thick," said Raffone. "Every breath, you felt it. I saw these kids . . . and they were frozen in smoke. They were like deer in headlights, like they didn't know what to do."
Raffone said he grabbed four children and pushed them outside, shouting at the adults to follow.
"I was just grabbing them like they were newspapers," he said. "I know if I hadn't done anything, they would have just stayed there."
As he helped the family, they told him that an elderly relative was still inside.
But when Raffone tried to go back, the flames were too intense. Minutes later, two patrol cars arrived, followed by firetrucks.
The 74-year old man still trapped was rescued by Capt. Christopher Joyce of Engine 318, who ran into the fire without waiting for a hose, said an FDNY spokesman. The man is in a serious condition at Staten Island University Hospital.
"The firefighters were incredible. They just ran in there and got him out," said Raffone, who insists he is no hero.
"I would have stopped for anyone," he said. "Anything I can do to help, I help out."
The driver returned to visit the family after work to see if they needed clothes and help. They shook his hand and thanked him.