HAMILTON, NJ -- A couple and their three-year-old baby were fast asleep Tuesday night when a fire broke out in their apartment over Palermo's restaurant in Hamilton Township. Two responding police officers -- Michael Stefanelli and Anthony Lucidi -- arrived at the Klockner Road address at approximately 11:45 pm to find a "significant fire" coming from an apartment above the restaurant.
In a letter to Police Chief James Stevens, Fire Chief Chris Tozzi from Fire District, commended the police officers for the "heroic efforts."
Tozzi, who was overseeing the fire scene, said that "Stefanelli and Lucidi quickly made the decision to traverse a compromised wooden stairway on the side of structure and make their way to the first floor roof to gain access to the apartment."
The residents inside, the letter stated, "had no knowledge of the quickly growing fire blocking their escape."
Stephanelli and Lucidi woke the parents and guided them "precariously past the fire and down to safely while the officers carried their daughter." Once outside, the three-year-old "clutched her father and pointed to the emergency lights in awe," said the Chief.
Tozzi said he was deeply moved by the officers' heroic actions. He noted that the lack of egress from the apartment combined with the construction type, time of day, and fast fire progression could have led to a "catastrophic outcome."
Hamilton Township Mayor Jeff Martin told TAPinto Hamilton/Robbinsville that he "couldn't be more proud of our officers -- putting their lives at risk to save others.
"We have great police officers and firefighters and this is just the latest example of their professionalism and heroics," said Martin.
Hamilton Township Fire Squad 12, Engines 18 and 16 and Truck 14 responded to the fire. It was quickly placed under control with damage kept to the stairway and wall of the apartment.
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