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Neighbor rescues man, dog from house fire

Firefighters respond to a fire on New Street

Firefighters respond to a fire on New Street in Port Washington, left. Scott Trimarchi, right, said he was gardening on the deck of his home when he smelled smoke and looked up to find flames shooting from the roof next door. Credit: Nick Spangler

About 100 firefighters battled a Friday night blaze that tore into two homes in Port Washington, where a neighbor raced to help a man and his dog trapped on the upper floor of a house going up in flames, officials said.

Scott Trimarchi said he called 911, grabbed a ladder from the garage of his New Street home and propped it against his neighbor's house. But the neighbor couldn't get down while holding his German shepherd and threw the pet from the window.

Trimarchi caught the dog, he said.

Everything seemed to move in "slow motion," said the rescuer, 33, a construction project manager. "You try not to panic."

His neighbor hustled down the ladder and was taken by ambulance to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, where he was in stable condition, fire officials said.

Not long afterward, the flames jumped the 10-foot divide between the two homes and Trimarchi's house began to burn.

Twelve departments battled the blaze, which started about 6:30 p.m. and spread quickly through the house because it was an older home with the type of construction that did not have fire stops between floors, said James Hickman, head of fire investigations for the Nassau County fire marshal's office.

Port Washington Fire Chief Thomas Golden said the first floor already was fully burning when he got there, ahead of his fellow firefighters. Flames traveled to the second floor, he said, and the main concern was the fire's spread to more homes.

Firefighters faced water problems and also other challenges in the four-alarm fire, authorities said.

Hickman said the conditions were "precarious at best."

"The streets are narrow and hilly," he said of that part of the hamlet. "Tight little spot."

The blaze was brought under control in an hour, but part of the first house collapsed. Trimarchi's house sustained some damage also, authorities said. Firefighters continued chasing hot spots into the night.

Golden called Trimarchi's actions "very dangerous but very heroic. You got somebody trapped. You do what you gotta do."

Trimarchi said when he first smelled smoke, he was gardening on his deck and looked up to see flames shooting from the roof next door. 

"I see a car in the driveway," he said. " 'Is someone home?' I'm yelling and yelling and he eventually popped out a window. He said, 'My whole house is on fire.' "

After his neighbor was taken away by ambulance, Trimarchi said, he watched a portion of his own house burn.

"All the work that I spent fixing it up is just — first of all, I'm just glad my family is OK, because my wife and baby were in the house," he said. "We were getting ready to go out for the night."

Trimarchi said he will stay with relatives in Port Washington and also will care for his neighbor's dog. But he said the house of the man he saved has been destroyed.

As Trimarchi headed back into his house, a woman gave him a bottle of water, saying, "You did good."

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