ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT : Two police officers crawled through flames and thick smoke, as bottles of household cleaners exploded around them, to rescue a 40-year-old woman trapped in a raging house fire apparently ignited by a lit cigarette.PHOTO by Brett M. Dzadik for CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM
READ A FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNT FROM HILLSDALE P.O. BRIAN McKEEVER: Hero’s tale: Rescuing trapped woman
Hillsdale Police Officers Brian McKeever and Dave Sayers reached the house within 90 seconds of a series of emergency calls just after 1:30 a.m.
As they crawled through the house a propane tank in the backyard exploded, along with several combustible household products, said Police Chief Chip Stalter.
They eventually found Laura Begen “overcome by smoke and unable to walk” in the living room of the single-story wood-frame ranch, the chief said.
The officers carried Begen outside the Homestead Street house to an arriving ambulance that whisked her to an area hospital with injuries that Stalter said don’t seem life-threatening.
As a precaution, both officers were treated for smoke inhalation, as well.
With help from their counterparts in Westwood, River Vale and Woodcliff Lake, officers from Hillsdale “cordoned off the area and streamlined access for the responding fire [departments],” Statler said. It took firefighters about an hour before Hillsdale Fire Chief Timothy Van Riper declared the blaze under control, he said.
A “misplaced burning cigarette” apparently ignited the fire, Stalter said. The chief hailed the “ collective professionalism and the fluid communication among all of these various agencies who are joined in the common goal of public safety.”
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