Spruce Street Fire Victims Thank Their ‘Angels’

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Maria Ducos, Officer Deyo Swartz, Maria Santiago and Officer Nicholas Gambino (left to right) meet on Spruce Street on April 17.

To the rest of the world, they’re police officers, but to Maria Ducos, they’re more than that.

“They’re not officers, they’re my angels,” Ducos said in speaking about township police officers Nicholas Gambino and Deyo Swartz.

Swartz and Gambino, along with officers Brian Quigley, Walter Skrobowski and Steven Ellmeyer, were the first to arrive April 15 at Ducos’ house, which had been set afire by an unattended candle.

Ducos’s mother, Maria Santiago, with whom she shares the Spruce Street home, was still in the house when the officers arrived, although Ducos had managed to escape with her two dogs.

Skrobowski and Swartz eventually rescued Santiago from the rear of the house, carrying her outside through the smoke and fire.

On April 17, Ducos and Santiago were reunited with two of their “angels,” Swartz and Gambino. The two officers met the women at the Spruce Street home, now with its windows boarded up and contents spread out in the front yard.

There were smiles and hugs all around as the four met, with the women repeating their thanks to the police officers.

Ducos, who said she had recently been diagnosed with cancer, said she and her mother lit a candle to a Saint to help in her recovery.

“The candle destroyed a lot of things, but God sent two angels to save us,” Duclos said. “We got life, thanks to them, and that’s what counts.”

With her daughter interpreting, Santiago said she didn’t know what was happening when she was first approached by Skrobowski.

“She was fighting them,” Ducos said of her mother.

Ducos said she was awakened by her dogs barking. Thinking they were just barking at people out in the street, Ducos ignored them.

“But then they started barking more aggressively,” she said, which prompted her to see what was going on.

“I opened the bedroom door and saw the smoke,” she said.

Ducos said she and her mother are staying with her sister in Plainfield.

One of Ducos’ neighbors, Misty Fair, also thanked the Swartz and Gambino.

“You guys came in and without thought did what you had to do,” she said to them. “I really commend you for that.”


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