A Nassau County police officer on patrol safely evacuated three people from a house fire in Uniondale Tuesday evening after he saw smoke billowing from the home, police said Wednesday. First Precinct Officer Matthew Andoos, a seven-year veteran, was driving west on Union Drive about 6:40 p.m. when he saw the smoke and flames coming from a second-story window, police said.
Andoos, who before joining the department was a Navy military police officer, entered the home and removed two teenage girls he said were "frantic."
At a news conference Wednesday at police headquarters in Mineola, Andoos said neighbors were already on the scene when he arrived and that his partner radioed for fire department assistance.
The teens told Andoos their father was still inside the home -- in the basement -- so he re-entered the house, but, he said, he quickly came back out because he was overcome by smoke and flames.
The girls directed him to a back door leading to the basement, and Andoos said when he pounded on the door the father opened it, apparently unaware the house was on fire. The man wanted to go back inside to retrieve some suits, but Andoos said he told him: "We can replace the suits, but we can't replace you."
Andoos was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, police said. Andoos said he didn't consider himself a hero and said his actions were "just part of my job."
But Nassau Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki said Andoos was being "humble."
"He is, in fact, a hero. He risked his life to save another life. We're extremely proud of Officer Andoos."
Ashley Souffrant, who was evacuated from the home with her father and sister, told News 12 Long Island that Andoos' quick action was "very heroic and shows a lot of passion. I'm thankful for what he did."
Her mother, Ilda Souffrant, told the station she was happy everyone was safe.
The Uniondale Fire Department responded with 70 firefighters and 10 trucks and extinguished the fire quickly. One firefighter suffered a broken ankle and was treated at a hospital.
The fire was not suspicious, but police said the cause is under investigation.
With John Valenti