BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A group of off-duty law enforcers risked their lives, not once, but twice Saturday.
They saw the smoke, they heard the sirens, and they leapt into action without any real regard for their own safety.
Twice, they braved the intense heat and smoke to make sure everyone was out of this house.
The six Buffalo Police and New York State officers, and Buffalo fire marshals were off-duty, working security at the Italian Festival, when they noticed the big plume of smoke rising over nearby Crestwood Avenue.
Det. Jeff Rinaldo said, "They came running down the street. When they got here, they were informed by a couple neighbors that there [were] people in the house. They were able to enter the front door. They got an elderly lady out of the downstairs, and then they also rescued an elderly lady out of the upstairs."
But the dramatic rescue wasn't over. Another neighbor yelled out that an elderly man, who is a diabetic and has difficulty getting around, was still trapped upstairs.
Once again, without the benefit of protective gear or oxygen, the officers charged into the burning home and carried the man to safety, just as firefighters were arriving.
Bystanders are hailing them as heroes, but Detective Rinaldo sees things differently.
"It's just in officers' natures. They see a problem, they go and address it. Nobody can turn their back on it and say, 'Well, I wasn't working today, so too bad.' That's what we do," added Det. Rinaldo.
The presence of the Italian Festival here, however, is both a blessing and a curse.
Neighbors say the residential streets off Hertel Avenue aren't wide enough to accommodate the extra traffic. Every year, they worry about first responders not being able to reach them, if there's an emergency.
Frank Dileo said, "The parking restrictions are not enforced. I mean, we got home - my wife and I got home - last night at approximately 10:30, and there were cars parked double, both sides of the street, halfway. If this fire would've happened last night, who knows."
Fire marshals are investigating the possibility that this fire may have been ignited by the combination of smoking and an oxygen tank left partially open.
In addition to officers Jay Sutter, Eric Hofschneider, Tom Cisela, Eric Nikischer, and Ed Ortiz, a member of the Italian Festival's board of directors, Ron Deschenes, assisted with today's rescue.
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