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Harrison Avenue Residents Hailed Heroes for Rescuing Neighbor

Usama "Sammy" Ghanem

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Lifelong South Plainfield resident Usama ‘Sammy’ Ghanem, Jr., 29, and his sister Crystal, 28, are being hailed local heroes for their quick thinking efforts to rescue a Harrison Avenue neighbor from her burning home Sunday night.

South Plainfield Fire units were dispatched to the 500 block area of Harrison Avenue at approximately 11:15 p.m. Feb. 28. Upon arriving at the scene, firefighters found the home’s lone occupant lying on the front lawn, having been rescued by neighbors who were able to gain entry to the home and remove her from the burning home.

According to Sammy, his sister was in bed the evening of the fire when, around 11 p.m. she heard a loud explosion. “She looked out her bedroom window and saw flames and smoke coming out of the home directly across the street,” Sammy said, noting that the loud noise Crystal heard was the sound of the home’s window glass breaking.

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Crystal ran to the house but was unable to get in and began screaming for her brother to come help. Running outside barefoot, Sammy said he first attempted to rescue the home’s lone occupant by kicking in the front door. When heavy smoke and flames forced him back, Sammy headed to side door where, after gaining entry, he found the victim on her kitchen floor, just shy of the door, half conscious with the telephone in her hand.

“It looked like she was trying to make her way out but collapsed before she could open the door,” said Sammy, who is friends with the victim’s son. “She was barely breathing and couldn't stand on her own. Hers arms were also badly burned.”

Sammy said he mustered all his strength, lifted her up and carried her outside. “Her next door neighbor Rose [Gemmell] came over as I was carrying her outside,” he said. “I laid her down and Rose attempted to do CPR. We heard her mumble and saw that she was breathing.”

It was at this time that police arrived followed by the South Plainfield Fire Department. Fire and EMS units tended to the victim and transported her to Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston and South Plainfield Fire units were able to quickly bring the fire under control. The cause of the fire, according to South Plainfield Fire Chief Thomas Scalera, is under investigation.

TAPinto South Plainfield’s article on the fire ( was uploaded to Facebook late Monday afternoon with readers sharing the story and commending Sammy and Crystal for their heroic efforts.

Janet Del Nero said, “Thank you for helping your neighbor.” Dawn Lester posted, “Thank God her neighbors were able to get her out.”

“Everyone is thanking me and telling me what I did was brave and courageous. I guess it is because not many people would run into a house that is on fire but I really didn't think about it,” Sammy said. “I was just acting on instinct. I knew she was in there and that I had to get her out.”

He added, “I am glad I was able to help but if it weren’t for my sister hearing the explosion, which turned out to be glass breaking, it would have been a very tragic evening.”

Those looking to help the fire victim can do so by visiting a gofundme page set up March 2 by Crystal Ghanem. For more information or to make a donation, visit

 TAPinto South Plainfield is South Plainfield’s only free daily paper. Sign up to get all the news as it happens at and follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter at @SoplainfieldTAP.


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