Two New York Roofers Rescue Six from Fire

Updated: 04-09-2006 01:29:33 PM

By Vanessa Thomas, News Staff Reporter
Buffalo News (New York)

Two passing roofers used their ladder to rescue a woman and her five children from a burning West Side home this morning.

The two roofers were driving past 30 Hawley St. at about 7:30 a.m. when they noticed the fire and stopped to helped.

The two men pulled their ladder off their truck, placed it against the 2-story home and, with the help of a neighbor, climbed up and rescued one by one Jennifer Seltzer, 25, and her five children.

"These guys did a nice job rescuing this family," Fire Marshal Edwin Ortiz said. "The family was lucky that their truck had a ladder on it."

"These gentlemen saved their lives, and he should be very proud of his actions," said Steven A. Beauchamp, spokesman for Rural/Metro Medical Services.

The two roofers were identified as George Hanna of Cheektowaga and William John of Depew.

Ortiz also credited neighbor Alberto Alejandro with helping in the rescue.

"I heard an explosion, and I ran outside and saw a cloud of smoke, and the whole house was engulfed in flames," Alejandro said. "The two roofers grabbed their ladder, and both of them took turns walking up the ladder and carrying the children down the ladder."

The Seltzer family had escaped their burning home by climbing through a bathroom window but were stuck on a back roof as flames engulfed their house, authorities reported.

"Two roofers drove up, pulled out their ladder, and the two of them and a neighbor rescued the family," Ortiz said.

The youngest child, a 3-month-old boy, was carried to safety first, followed the rest of the children -- ages 4, 5, 6 and 7, said Ortiz.

"The fire was engulfing the place, and the woman was handing her kids out," explained Alejandro, as he stood in front of the house's burned-out shell.

"They would grab the kid and come down the ladder. They got all the kids out, and then I went up the ladder because the woman was scared to come down. She was saying, 'No. I can't'.

"Smoke was everywhere, and I could barely see so I grabbed her, put her on my shoulder and carried her all the way down. She was almost fainting, so I had to keep yelling at her to wake up."

Alejandro's son, Steve, was also outside the house using his hand-held fire extinguisher to battle the flames to no avail.

Paramedics at Rural/Metro Medical Services transported the five children and the mother to Women and Children's Hospital. The six family members were treated for smoke inhalation and are expected to be released, according to John Moscato, a hospital spokesman.

Hanna was treated in Millard Fillmore Hospital for smoke inhalation and was also expected to be released, said Ortiz.

John and Alejandro were not hospitalized.

The home was destroyed, and damage is estimated at $40,000 to the building and $20,000 to the contents, said Ortiz, who investigated the fire with Fire Marshals Joseph Tomizzi and Lt. Sal Colangelo.

Ortiz said investigators believe the children were on the first floor playing with matches when they ignited a jacket and went upstairs to alert their mother.