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.
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.
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.
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.