Todd Chenez and Michael Stover were halfway through their three-mile run Monday afternoon, when they spotted a woman running down her driveway on Hawley Street, yelling out that her husband was trapped in their burning home.
The two off-duty Lockport police officers rushed in, got separated in the intense black smoke and were forced out, before they and two arriving police officers – Heather Rohde and Anthony Pittman – teamed up to go back inside and pull a 69-year-old man to safety from the basement steps.
All four police officers were treated for smoke inhalation at Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport, with Stover being kept overnight in the Intensive Care Unit for observation. He was released at about 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the 69-year-old Hawley Street resident, whose name hasn’t been released, was taken to Eastern Niagara Hospital and then transferred to Erie County Medical Center, where police have been told he was in stable condition.
“The outcome couldn’t have been better,” Chenez said Tuesday morning, after picking up his friend, Stover, from the hospital. “The main thing here is, Mike and I running and the four of us all converging at the same point at the same time. I think a higher power put us all there at one time, to help this man.”
But the lieutenant quickly added, “It will be a great thing only if this man survives.”
Chenez and Stover were jogging past the home at 409 Hawley St. at about 3:40 p.m. Monday when they saw the woman waving her arms frantically and calling for help. The two off-duty colleagues raced to the back of the house and went inside.
“It was black,” Chenez said of the intense smoke. “As soon as we went into the house, I lost sight of Mike.”
Both men came outside to catch their breath. They went back inside and tripped on the man, who was lying on the steps to the basement. But the two couldn’t lift the large man under those intense fire conditions.
“Heather, Anthony, Mike and I each grabbed a limb and finally got him out of the house,” Chenez said.
The cause of the fire was believed to be a filled vent tube on an electric table saw, Lockport Fire Investigator Aaron Belling said.
No damage estimate has been released, but Lockport firefighters managed to confine the fire damage to the basement ceiling, although there was heavy smoke damage on the first floor and in the basement.