Two neighbors and an off-duty police officer pulled a man from his burning home in Williston Park yesterday, officials and witnesses said.
The victim, who was hospitalized with smoke inhalation, was not burned, neighbor Ray Rudolph said.
He said knowing the layout of victim James Mullins' home helped save his longtime neighbor's life.
Rudolph, 68, said he had just climbed out of bed a little after 7 a.m. Sunday when a neighbor out walking his dog alerted him and his wife that there was smoke coming from the house next door, where they discovered a fire had fully engulfed the home.
"Oh God, his house is on fire," Rudolph said he thought when he saw the white smoke coming out of the front of Mullins' home.
Rudolph said he ran from his house shoeless and found the dog-walking neighbor and an off-duty Nassau police detective outside trying to figure out how to get into the home.
Rudolph, who has lived in the neighborhood nearly 43 years, knew the layout of his neighbor's home and also knew Mullins liked to sleep in the den at the back, so he immediately told the men to meet him there. He first raced to the garage to grab an ax so they could break down the door, and then met the men behind the house.
"I knew where he would be," said Rudolph, sipping coffee in his driveway next to the charred home yesterday as crews boarded up Mullins' windows and front door. They have been neighbors for 31 years, he said.
"I told them, 'We have to get this door down or he's done,' " Rudolph said.
He said the three men broke the back door open and, as predicted, found Mullins in the den under heavy smoke. "He seemed to be stumbling around," Rudolph said.
The three men took Mullins to the front of another neighbor's lawn shortly before an ambulance arrived.
The fire, which severely damaged the Mineola Boulevard home, started in the living room in the front of the house, Williston Park First Assistant Chief Anthony Gagliardi said. Firefighters responded to a 911 call that came in shortly before 7:30 a.m. and the fire was fully involved when they arrived.
Rudolph said Mullins inhaled a lot of smoke. The blaze was brought under control by 8:45 a.m., Gagliardi said.
Nassau police said the Williston Park, Mineola, Albertson and Garden City Park fire departments used 10 trucks and other apparatus and 100 firefighters to extinguish the fire.
Mullins, 59, was taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow to be treated for smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning, Gagliardi said. "I hope he's doing well," Rudolph said. "He took in a lot of smoke."
A Williston Park firefighter twisted his ankle and was treated briefly at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola.
Two other firefighters received medical attention for chest pains and heat exhaustion, police said.
The fire did not appear to be suspicious, police said.