Officer scales building to save 2 children, 2 adults trapped by NJ condo fire

Officer scales building to save 2 children, 2 adults trapped by NJ condo fire
The only way out was a wooden stairwell right in the middle of the New Jersey condominium building, which was fully engulfed by flames. (Source: North Brunswick Police Department/Facebook)

NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (WABC/CNN) - Several police officers, including one who scaled a building to rescue a trapped family of four, are being hailed as heroes after saving residents from a fire at a New Jersey condominium complex.

When Port Authority Police Officer John Shaughnessy noticed flames coming from a condo near his own home Saturday night, he immediately sprang into action, going to assist North Brunswick police, who were just arriving on scene.

Shaughnessy and the responding officers began banging on windows and the walls of the first floor units to alert occupants about the fire. Police body camera shows video of the officers running to help.

GP Fire 12/08/2018

Follow-up to the GP Fire incident of 12/08/2018: On Saturday night, Patrol Units were dispatched at approximately 1019pm to reports of multiple buildings on fire on Albury Way and Kempsey Drive, within the Governor's Point section. Units arrived quickly and discovered one building at that intersection to be heavily involved with fire. The fire had already consumed the majority of the breezeway that contained all doors. Officers went to the doors that they could still get to to clear/evacuate those units. A couple Officers located two children and their grandparents to be stranded on a second floor balcony, trapped by the approaching fire. One Officer scaled the balconies, got to the second floor, dropped down the children to Officers waiting below, then assisted the grandparents over the railing to Officers below as well. An off-duty NY/NJ Port Authority Police Officer that lives nearby also assisted our Officers by catching one of the children. We are very happy to report that there were NO serious injuries as a result of this incident. The North Brunswick Volunteer Fire Department arrived quickly as well, and went to work on the blaze. They worked tirelessly through the night to extinguish the fire completely. The Fire was investigated by our Detectives along with the North Brunswick Fire Marshal's Office, in conjunction with the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office. At this time, the fire has been deemed accidental, possibly as a result of Holiday decorations, or a Menorah. This should serve as a reminder to please be safe with any Holiday decorations and or religious articles. We always recommend using something other than candle lit items if they will be out of view at all. Please keep all smoke detectors in good working order and batteries fresh. There is no doubt that working smoke alarms saved lives during this incident. Please be safe! *See Comments for part 1 of this video.

Posted by North Brunswick Police Department on Monday, December 10, 2018

Unfortunately, the only way out of the building was a wooden stairwell right in the middle of it, which was fully engulfed with flames.

A family of four, two grandparents, a 4-year-old girl and her 6-month-old brother, ended up trapped on a second floor balcony, so North Brunswick Officer Joe Grasso quickly scaled the building to reach the victims.

“I did a pull up onto the second floor balcony, and from that point, I started to assist lowering the children down to my fellow officers,” Grasso said. “It was very terrifying.”

The officer gently dropped the two children, wrapped in blankets, down about 15 feet to Shaughnessy, who was waiting below with additional emergency personnel.

Grasso then slowly lowered the adults, who were so afraid they couldn’t even move.

Police and Fire Department units are currently operating on Albury Way at a Structure Fire in the residential Governor's...

Posted by North Brunswick Police Department on Saturday, December 8, 2018

Like the other officers, Shaughnessy brushes off the word ‘hero.’

“The most important thing to me is not being a hero; it’s that everybody got out alive. There’s nothing more important than that,” he said.

In the end, 28 people who lived in the building, about half the residents, were left without a home.

Police say 15 of those people were either able to run out on their own or rescued by officers. The other 13 residents weren’t at home at the time of the fire.

The only way out of the New Jersey condominium building was a wooden stairwell right in the middle of the building, which was fully engulfed by flames.
The only way out of the New Jersey condominium building was a wooden stairwell right in the middle of the building, which was fully engulfed by flames. (Source: North Brunswick Police Department/Facebook)

Officials say there were no serious injuries as a result of the incident.

Fire officials believe the fire was accidental, possibly caused by holiday decorations or a candle in a menorah.

Copyright 2018 WABC, North Brunswick Police Dept., Kaitie Lynch, John Shaughnessy via CNN. All rights reserved.