An animal-loving North Merrick family praised Nassau County police officers, firefighters and neighbors who saved three cats, two dogs and a lizard named Matisse after their Powell Avenue house became engulfed in flames Wednesday morning.
Homeowner Dante Cosentino called the first responders who rescued the family’s animals “amazing.”
“The children shouldn’t look up to Batman, Superman, all the superheroes with capes on,” Cosentino said as he stood outside the burned-out shell of his family’s home.
“The real heroes are the police department and the fire department, EMS and every other department like that. They are the heroes. Their capes are the badges they wear,” Cosentino said.
Five other cats who lived at the home, however, died in the fire, said Cosentino’s wife, Lisa, who said she rescued stray and feral dogs and cats.
“They would have all been gone if not for the first responders,” Dante Cosentino said.
Officers and firefighters from the North Merrick Fire Department responded to a call about a blaze at the home about 9:46 a.m., Nassau County police spokesman Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun said. The cause of the fire has not been determined.
Nassau County police officer Thomas Siesto said the North Merrick firefighters were battling the fire inside the when he and other officers arrived at the scene and “we just sprung into our first responder action.”
Firefighters found three cats — Mickey, Mischief and Owhacky — cowering in a bedroom about a minute or so after they arrived. They took the cats outside, where Siesto and other officers treated the animals with bottled oxygen and chest compression.
The family also owns five dogs. Two — Trixie and Nelly, both shepherd mixes — had to be carried out of the burning house.
During an impromptu news conference in front of the Powell Avenue house, the Cosentinos said they thought their lizard had perished in the fire. A firefighter standing nearby, however, said they were wrong — and he pointed to Matisse, who was resting on his shoulder.
Lisa Cosentino said the family — and its animals — would stay with friends and family Wednesday night.
LeBrun and Dante Cosentino praised neighbors who assisted in the rescue. One neighbor, John Scalesi of the Nassau County Firemen’s Association, braved the flames and smoke without gear to help get the dogs out.
“I’ve known him for 30 years. He is always there. He goes above and beyond too. He is always there for the community,” Cosentino said of Scalesi.