WEST BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — On Tuesday, a Suffolk County police officer reunited with a family of four he saved from a fire.
CBS2’s Nick Caloway was there for the big moment.
Officer Avi Donnenfeld saw the Hoffmann family for the first time since helped them escape the blaze that destroyed their home on New Year’s Eve.
More than a month later, the Hoffmann house on Ecker Avenue in West Babylon is covered by tarps, still charred from fire. Donnenfeld, a 14-year veteran of the force, was on patrol that early morning when he happened to see smoke. He said he banged on the door to wake everyone up, and even went inside the burning house.
“I wasn’t able to make it very far. The smoke condition was so heavy I’m surprised that they were even there as long as they were. So it could have been very tragic,” Donnenfeld said.
He helped get 12-year-old Nicholas and 6-year-old Ian outside first, then their parents, Jason and Theresa.
“If there’s a child, or adult, a human life inside, I’m not going to stop until I find that person and bring them out,” Donnenfeld said.
“And we’re safe because of you. Thank you,” Theresa Hoffmann said.
Officer Donnenfeld was honored with a proclamation from the people of Suffolk County on Tuesday for his bravery and dedication. But for him, seeing the Hoffmanns alive and well is more reward than anything else.
“We touch people’s lives in different ways. When you get a smile, a hug or a tear, that’s the greatest compliment that you can have,” Donnenfeld said.
The Hoffmanns were able to salvage a few personal effects from the house, but the rest was destroyed by the fire. Still, they said they feel lucky.
“Yes, we lost things that day, and, yes, we lost our beloved animal. But what we have gained from this community, I have more now than I had before,” Theresa Hoffmann said.
Thanks to a police officer who ran into a burning house, more concerned about the family inside than his own safety.
The Hoffmann family does plan on rebuilding that house. They said they hope to be living there again in about a year.