Christopher Schneider hailed as hero after noticing Commack neighbor's house on fire
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One day after the death of his grandfather, whom Christopher Schneider lovingly called "Super Man," the 10-year-old boy became a hero himself.
Christopher was in his Commack backyard on Monday afternoon and saw that a neighbor's house was on fire. He alerted his father and called 911.
Russell Schneider raced next door to warn the neighbors: Marc Kimmel, 39, his pregnant wife, Doreen, and their 2-year-old son.
Everyone got out safely. The men sprayed the flames with garden hoses, containing the blaze until firefighters arrived.
Tuesday, the Commack Fire Department and the Kimmels hailed the soon-to-be-fifth grader as the hero of Ulster Court.
"I have no words that I could repay this kid with," Marc Kimmel said. "He literally saved our lives."
Local fire officials paid tribute to the young lifesaver, as did his Little League coach and teammates.
"Everybody should be proud of you, especially your parents," said Paul Carnevale, an assistant chief who responded to the fire. "His quick action really saved the house."
Fire crews arrived three minutes after Christopher's call. Carnevale said the fire only scorched the outside of the home by the rear dining room; a cause has not been determined.
Minutes earlier, Christopher and his dad were in their basement playing baseball on Xbox. When they took a break and stepped outside, Christopher noticed the smoke rising next door.
He said he learned from a fire department presentation at his school, John Mandracchia-Sawmill Intermediate, that black smoke means a fire -- call 911 right away.
"In my mind I was panicking completely. . . . I tried to keep calm, which I think I did OK at," Christopher said Tuesday.
Kimmel, a luxury car salesman, said he usually works Mondays but came home early to be with his wife, who is due Aug. 4 and nursing a bad back.
When the fire started at 2:13 p.m., the couple was in a bedroom watching "The Wiggles" children's TV show with their son Anthony, Marc Kimmel said.
Russell Schneider, 44, said he banged on the neighbors' door, screaming that the house was on fire.
Said Kimmel: "I was about to fall asleep when the doorbell rang, and there was incessant knocking on the door like . . . I've never heard before."
Hours before the fire, Christopher learned that his grandfather, Anthony Putignano, 71, an electrician who had worked in the World Trade Center for more than 30 years, had died from lung cancer.
The boy penned a farewell note to place in the coffin, so "Poppy" could read it, said Christopher's mother, Lisa Putignano, 44.
The last line reads: "You're my Super Man! Love, Christopher."