WEST HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Amidst the screams and smoke from a raging fire at an apartment building on the Jericho Turnpike in West Hempstead, three cops emerged as heroes.

“They don’t have any gear on, no protection from smoke, they’re going up this ladder to help people,” Nassau County PBA President James Carver said.

As CBS2’s Scott Rapoport reported, the Nassau County PBA honored James Schuerlein, Luis Ascencio, and Evan Marro. All were credited with saving multiple lives from a potentially deadly fire.

The officers acted on instinct.

“You don’t really think, you just want to help the people in distress. There’s no thought pattern, we just want to get people out,” Ascencio said.

Flames broke out in a furniture store and quickly spread to other buildings. Black smoke billowed seemingly everywhere.

The three cops were the first to respond, ahead of firefighters, and saw people trapped on the upper floors.

Officers Schuerlein and Ascencio grabbed a ladder from a nearby construction site and used it to rescue two people from a second floor window.

Schuerlein said they rescued the second person just in time.

“He was aspirating, couldn’t breathe. He had black soot just pouring out of his nose,” he said.

In the back of the building Officer Evan Marro helped rescue four more people, two of them children.

“Climbed up the ladder, grabbed the two children, carried them down,” Marro said.

It’s the stuff of heroes. CBS2 has been told that no one was seriously injured.

“We don’t think of ourselves as heroes. We’re just doing our job,” Marro said.

Three of Nassau County’s finest kept their cool under pressure.

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