Neighbors with a security camera and a ladder helped prevent tragedy at an East Northport house fire early Friday morning, leading to the rescue of an elderly couple from the burning home, authorities said.
A local fire commissioner called the discovery and rescue "a miracle beyond miracles."
Authorities were alerted to the Penfield Drive fire after a 911 call at 3:17 a.m. from Jeannine Morreale, one of the neighbors, said Commack Fire Commissioner Pat Fazio.
In an interview, Morreale said she and her husband, Mark, woke to an alarm via his cellphone connected to their front-door Ring camera, which was tripped because the house across the street from them was engulfed by bright, shooting flames.
Black-and-white footage from that camera shows smoke and flames billowing from the neighboring home and illuminating the night sky.
Mark Morreale ran across the street and began banging on the front door, Jeannine Morreale said, while she, on the phone with authorities, saw something terrifying: a woman at the front window of the burning house, “hanging by the screen and trying to breathe, yelling out for help.”
Suffolk police and Commack firefighters arrived minutes later. Firefighter Andy Stiles opened the home’s locked front door using a crowbar-like entry tool, and Assistant Chief Christopher Ciaccio, wearing protective gear, headed into the fire, Fazio said.
“He navigates himself through hell, quite frankly,” to find the room where the woman had taken refuge, Fazio said.
Meanwhile, Mark Morreale, a carpenter, retrieved his work ladder — and then an even taller ladder. Police said Second Precinct officers Shane Wild and Steven Capogna used one of them to reach the woman and moved her to safety with Ciaccio’s help.
By then, the fire had grown so intense that Ciaccio also had to escape through the window, Fazio said.
Mark Morreale recalled running across the street, banging on the door and getting the two ladders for the police officers. He was worried for the couple's safety because the man inside just had a hip replacement and the woman has bad knees. She was gasping for air.
“They were able to get her out through that window,” he said of the police. He added: “She was like, ‘I’m not dressed! I don’t have my shoes!’ And he’s like, ‘You gotta go now!’”
Morreale said the smoke conditions were unbearable for the rescuers.
“I’m like, ‘Holy mackerel!’” he said. “You couldn’t even breathe by the door.”
Ciaccio, who has been with the fire department for 13 years, recalled how the kitchen area and much of the hallway were engulfed in flames.
"I undoubtedly had to crawl on the floor to avoid the fire that was above me and to the side," he said, and he eventually got into the bedroom as the officers worked to help the woman out.
Commack Fire Commissioner Jerome Quigley ran to the back of the house and pulled out the woman’s husband, Fazio said.
“All the stars were aligned for that couple, every star in the stratosphere,” he said.
Fazio called it "really a miracle, to say the least."
The couple were taken to Stony Brook University Hospital but found to be uninjured, police said. The officers were treated there for smoke inhalation.
In a statement sent by the police department’s press office, Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said that no one sustained life-threatening injuries, and “everyone involved is expected to make a full recovery.”
“The level of heroism and selflessness exhibited by Officers Shane Wild and Steven Capogna, the firefighters, and good Samaritans, who put aside their own safety to save a life, cannot be overstated. While material items can be replaced, human life cannot.”
Said Jeannine Morreale: “I would hope somebody would do the same for anyone.”
Arson detectives were investigating the cause of the fire.