HACKENSACK, N.J. — An off-duty emergency medical technician at Hackensack University Medical Center who has been one of the countless health care professionals working the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic has another reason to watch her smoke.

Before 9 p.m. Saturday, Diane Jansen, of South Hackensack, had been driving south on Route 80 on her way home from a day of shopping for Christmas lights with a friend to restore some normalcy and cheer in the midst of a difficult year, when she spotted a working fire outside a single-family home at 546 Hudson Street, pulled over, and dialed 911. 

Jansen said she usually takes a right onto Philips Avenue from Route 80, but her intuition steered her in another direction: to turn left and take Hudson Street. What she saw was horrifying. 

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“It appeared to have started in the trash that extended to the porch and started to go up the corner of the house,” she recalled. “There were two females inside who didn’t have a clue about the fire.”

While city firefighters were en route to the residence, Jansen said she immediately banged on the homeowner’s front door, and the two women emerged “very shocked” at what they witnessed. 

Jansen said the owner, in her early 60s, told her she may have been asleep and unable to hear her knocking had it not have been for her visitor who had been staying with her.

“When something tells you to drive home a certain way, and you come upon a house that’s on fire, and you call 911 and bang on the window and get the residents out safely, it’s a win-win,” Jansen stated in a Facebook post. “Thanks to the Hackensack Fire Department for their quick response, great job!” 

According to Fire Chief Justin Derevyanik, the blaze was knocked down quickly and there was minor damage to the inside of the home, the bulk of which occurred outside. No injuries were reported. 

While the fire is under investigation, Jansen said the homeowner’s disposal of a cigarette earlier that evening may have been the culprit. When asked if she considers herself a hero, Jansen -- like all others -- remains humble. 

“Not a hero, just doing what I love: saving lives, making a difference one day at a time," said Jansen. "I’m glad I was in the right place at the right time."