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Police Rescue Elderly Woman From Burning Home, Suffer Minor Injuries

Family dogs alerted daughter to fire


Click the files above to hear radio transmissions from the Spruce Street fire.
Files courtesy Franklin Township Police Department.


Township police rescued a 78-year-old woman from a burning Spruce Street home April 15, suffering minor injuries in the process.

The woman, who was not identified by police, also suffered from smoke inhalation – as did the officers – and a minor shoulder injury. The woman and police officers were treated at the scene and released.

The fire was placed under control in about 25 minutes, according to the East Franklin Volunteer Fire Department’s Web site.

Cops fire rescue4

Township Police Chief Lawrence Roberts (second from left) talks about the Spruce Street fire with officers Nicholas Gambino, Deyo Swartz and Steven Ellmeyer (left to right).

Police received a 9-1-1 call shortly before midnight reporting the Spruce Street blaze, and then subsequent calls reporting that someone was trapped in the home, according to a release from township police.

Police officers Deyo Swartz and Steven Ellmeyer were the first to arrive, and were met by a 58-year-old resident. The woman told police that her mother was still in her bedroom, police said.

The daughter was awakened by her two dogs barking, Ellmeyer said.

The officer notified headquarters of the situation and went to the rear of the home, police said. The two broke through the rear door, but could only advance about 15 feet before they were forced out by smoke and flames, police said.

By this time, township police officers Brian Quigley, Walter Skrobowski and Nicholas Gambino arrived to help, police said.

The officers met with the younger woman again, who pointed out her mother’s room, police said.

Police broke the older woman’s bedroom window, and Gambino entered through the window to find her not in the room, police said.

Swartz made his way to the rear of the house when he heard Skrobowski yell that he’d found the woman, police said. Swartz the re-entered the house and found Skrobowski with the woman about 25 feet inside the rear of the home, police said.

The two officers picked up the woman and carried her safely out of the home, police said.

The woman and officers were treated by emergency medical personnel from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, police said.

An investigation showed that the fire was probably set by a candle that had been left unattended, police said. The home was deemed uninhabitable and the two women are staying with family members, police said.

The officers said they were glad the incident turned out as it did.

“It was very nice to have it work out that well,” Gambino said. “we were just going to do everything to get her out.”

“It was definitely a relief knowing that we were able to get her,” Ellmeyer said.

Swartz said “it was a very good feeling to come to work and help the community.”

Firefighters from Community, East Franklin, New Brunswick and Bound Brook Fire Companies responded to battle the blaze, police said.

“I am very proud of all of the officers on the scene,” Police Chief Lawrence Roberts said in the release. “Their quick thinking and sure actions brought a positive conclusion to what could have been a very tragic event.”

John Hauss, Director of Fire Prevention, said in the release that the residence was not equipped with any working smoke alarms. All residents should check their smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they are properly working, he said. If any residents need assistance with this, they can contact the Office of Fire Prevention at (732) 873-2500, ext. 6303.

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