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Police Officers Rescue Families from Burning Corona Home

By Katie Honan | January 20, 2014 12:50pm
 The police officers saw the fire while out on a patrol.
Police Officers Rescue Families from Burning Home
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CORONA — Two police officers out on a mid-afternoon patrol sprang into action and helped save residents from a fire that was raging on the top floor of a three-story home late last week.

Officers Christopher Bethell and Michael Caputo from the 115th Precinct were driving on 34th Avenue in Corona on Friday around 2:30 p.m. when they saw smoke coming from 107th Street, they said.

When they went to investigate they found a three-story home on the same block as the historic Louis Armstrong House Museum with "flames shooting out of the attic," Bethell said.

They also saw a woman crying in the street, pointing at the house, who told them there were people inside.

The officers called in the blaze, alerting the fire department and other police units, then ran inside.

"We were kicking in doors," Bethell, 32, said, adding that the first floor tenants didn't know there was a fire and were at first scared when they came in.

They split up and Caputo, 39, cleared the first floor apartments, helping out three adults and two children.

Bethell continued upstairs as the hallways filled with smoke, and found more tenants in the hallways and in another apartment.

"Windows were popping from the heat," he said.

Firefighters from Ladder 178 had arrived by the time they got the tenants out, and the fire was under control shortly after.

There were no civilian injuries, according to the FDNY, and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The Red Cross placed 15 tenants from four of the five units in temporary housing, according to spokesman Michael de Vulpillieres.

It's unclear if the apartments had smoke alarms, but Bethell and Caputo said they didn't hear any alarms when they were in the house.

The person who answered the phone at the building owner's home declined comment and the FDNY did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Both of the police officers were treated for smoke inhalation at Booth Memorial Hospital in Flushing.

Deputy Inspector Michael Cody called his officers "heroes" and their early action helped save lives.

Bethell and Caputo, who work in the narcotics unit, returned to work on Saturday.