Police & Fire

Officers Honored as Heroes for Rescuing Seniors from Fire

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From left, Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Thomas Lee; Carmel police Sgt. Robert Behan; and Officer Neil Brown, receive their meritorious police duty awards from Sheriff Donald Smith. Credits: Bob Dumas
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CARMEL, N.Y.— Two Carmel police officers and a Putnam County Sheriff’s deputy are being lauded as heroes after they helped rescue three residents of Hughson Commons, a senior housing complex in Carmel, during a fire in the early-morning hours of Nov. 15.

The three officers—Officer Neil Brown, Sgt. Robert Behan and Sgt. Thomas Lee of the Sheriff’s Department—were given meritorious police duty awards from the Carmel Police Department and Putnam County Sheriff’s Department during the Dec. 7 Town Board meeting in honor of their actions.

A 911 call at around 3:52 a.m. called firefighters to Hughson Commons on Gables Way for a fully involved structure fire.

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“When Officer Brown arrived, he learned there was a visually impaired gentleman on the third floor who was still inside the apartment,” said Carmel Police Chief Mike Cazzari. “The fire was coming through the roof and out one side of the building. Without any thought, Officer Brown went inside and found the man and escorted him out.”

Behan and Lee then arrived and joined Brown to continue the search for more residents.

“The three officers went through the complex clearing the apartments and they did find two more tenants inside while the fire was still going,” Cazzari said. “They got those people out and thanks to their brave actions those three people are still alive.”

Sheriff Donald Smith said the three officers took their lives into their hands by going into the burning building.

“When you go into a burning building there are all kinds of ways that you can get in trouble and not come out,” he said. “I believe ceilings were starting to come down when these gentlemen were in the building.  And we know that people can die from smoke inhalation as well. So we are honoring three of our own tonight—three from the thin blue line tonight.”

Smith noted that the rescues were made by the Carmel PD and the Sheriff’s Department working together.

“We have always felt close to the Carmel Police Department and have had a special relationship this past year,” the sheriff said. “We have always worked together but have worked even closer this past year. So I joined with Chief Cazzari in recognizing these three brave officers. Every day the police officers, the firefighters,  and emergency services first responders  in Putnam County are out there doing their duty in all kinds of weather, under all kinds of conditions and in the world we live in today, you never know.

“I am so proud of you,” Smith told the officers. “Thankfully that night we had no casualties and that is thanks to you and the good work that our firefighters and everyone did that night.”

Sen. Terrence Murphy said the town and the county are blessed to have police officers such as Brown, Behan and Lee.

“Thank you on behalf of New York State, thank you on behalf of the 40th [Senate] District and thank you as a parent,” he told the officers. “It’s good to know we have people like you running into fires and taking care of our community to keep it as safe as it is.”

Town Supervisor Ken Schmitt also praised the officers’ actions.

“We thank you for everything you do day in and day out to protect the lives and businesses; not just in Carmel but Putnam County, too,” he said.  “We are very fortunate to have such great police officers.”

The fire at Hughson Commons displaced more than 30 residents. Its cause is still under investigation.

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