FAIR LAWN, N.J. — A fire in a Fair Lawn independent living facility that killed two women overnight could have been even worse if not for a group of police officers who were the first to arrive.
Using a wooden bedframe propped against the Berkshire Road house, Officer Juan Rodriguez climbed to the second floor and got a 54-year-old resident out a window as flames roared behind her.
"My legs are on fire!" she screamed.
"I just got next to her and told her 'I'm not going to let you go,' " Rodriguez said. "She was so scared she was going to fall to the ground down to the concrete."
After helping her down, Rodriguez caught his foot in a gutter, had a brief tumble and was taken to the hospital with ankle and knee injuries.
Officers John Rovetto got a 69-year-old first-floor resident out.
She was taken to the hospital for evaluation, Fair Lawn Sgt. Brian Metzler said.
Officers Edward Egan, Ian Manelis, Luis Vasquez joined Rodriguez. They found the bedframe in the garage and put it to use.
The officers rushed back in to help Rovetto, but flames drove all of them back.
One victim who didn't make it out alive was found in bed and the other on the floor behind a bedroom door, Metzler said.
A space heater in a second-floor bedroom was to blame, the sergeant said.
Police Chief Glen Cauwels said it was a tragedy that two people died. At the same time, he said, it could have been worse.
"These officers went up above their duty to rescue the woman off the roof and I'm very proud of what they've done last night," Cauwels said.
"We did what we had to do," Rodriguez said Tuesday.
"That's my job. That's what I signed up for," he said.
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