Nassau Police Officer Kirsten Lorenzo was driving her patrol car, headed to a routine call, when she saw heavy black smoke in the sky. She soon found the source: a raging house fire in Great Neck Estates, with flames engulfing the attached garage and spreading rapidly.
Lorenzo called for help over the police radio that late afternoon in March and soon she and Great Neck Estates Police Officer Sean Murtagh were inside the smoke-filled home searching for its inhabitants, described by neighbors as an elderly couple, police said Monday.
Inside the kitchen, they found the couple, who were in their 80s, and a home aide and guided them to safety.
For what police officials said were the officers’ heroic actions, the pair were given citations and named “Top Cops” at a Monday meeting of the Nassau County Legislature.
“That’s some scary stuff and we’re honoring them today for their bravery,” said Police Benevolent Association president James McDermott. “Disregarding their own personal safety, they called upon their training, and they saved the lives of these . . . people.”
Without protective safety gear, the patrol cops crouched down as they walked and covered their mouths to keep from choking, police said.
Murtagh lifted the man, who uses a walker, from under his arms, carrying him out of the home and Lorenzo guided the woman and her aide outside. No one was injured, police said.
Both officers were treated for smoke inhalation but were otherwise unhurt, police said.
“The smoke was so thick, and just the sound of the fire crackling, you couldn’t ascertain where they were exactly,” Murtagh said.
Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, back on the job after being hospitalized on May 11 for stent work on his arteries, said the daring rescue exemplified how the county department works with its village partners.
“It’s quite clear if not for the actions of these two officers today, they would not be alive,” Krumpter said of the people rescued from the home.
Legis. Steven Rhoads, himself a volunteer firefighter in Wantagh for more than two decades, said the officers’ actions were the “finest act of heroism,” especially given that the officers were without safety gear.
“I know firsthand the tremendous risk that you took,” Rhoads said.
The officers insisted they were just doing their jobs.
“If it were my family or friends, I’d want someone to do exactly what he and I did,” Lorenzo said.
Murtagh added: “The training just takes over. It’s just instinct.”