CARTERET, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Authorities are praising an off-duty police dispatcher who rescued two neighbors from a fire that destroyed their home early Monday in Carteret.

The dispatcher was driving to work around 5:40 a.m. when he saw the raging inferno at the two-story, split-level home on Capp Street and rushed in, pulling out two people who had been trapped.

“It was a scary feeling at first knowing there actually is people inside the home, and I just focused on them and getting them out,” Woodbridge police dispatcher Eric Seniakevgch told 1010 WINS.

“It’s a great feeling,” Seniakevgch told CBS 2’s John Slattery in a separate interview. “I saved … two people’s lives today.”

The fire got the attention of neighbors, who ran over and started banging on doors and windows, CBS 2’s John Slattery reported. Five residents made it out safely.

But as Seniakevgch was driving up, residents who had escaped the flames told him two people were trapped inside.

“I tried to run through the front door to make a quick grab, and it was just too thick of smoke and everything,” Seniakevgch said.

So he went to a basement window and saw people lying on the floor. He pulled the woman safely out through the narrow opening window, but the man could not fit. Seniakevgch then grabbed a sledgehammer.

“Break out the rest of the window and make it a little bigger opening, and we get him through,” Seniakevgch said.

Marissa Mamanta, 50, and her husband were treated for cuts they received climbing out of the window, 1010 WINS reported.

“Traumatic experience,” Mamanta said. “Very traumatic.

“Really thankful, praise the Lord, that … me and my husband were able to get out from the basement,” Mamanta said.

The house was destroyed. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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