(NEW YORK) — A father and his four children were saved from an early morning house fire by a neighbor and a passerby who saw smoke coming from the home’s garage and were able to alert the sleeping family, police said.
The fire was reported around 5:35 a.m. Wednesday at a home in South Brunswick Township, New Jersey, local police said.
A man who lives on the block told police he looked out his window at about 5:30 a.m. and “noticed puffs of smoke that looked like fog” over the corner of his neighbor’s garage, the South Brunswick Township Police Department said in a statement.
When the man — identified by police as 85-year-old Santo Livio — went outside to further check, he saw a woman who regularly walks in the neighborhood coming down the street as well.
“I yell to her, I said, ‘Is that a fire, you think, that smoke is?’ And she says yes,” Livio told ABC News.
The woman ran up the driveway and started banging on the front door to the house, while Livio started banging on a window, he said.
Livio said he banged on the window for about a minute or two before running back home to call 911 while the woman continued knocking on the door.
“When I got back to my door, I saw the people that lived in the house come out and she told them their house was on fire. And the man said, ‘What fire?’ And she says, ‘Look,'” Livio said. “He looked up and he said, ‘Oh my God.'”
The family was sleeping at the time and were woken up by Livio and the woman banging on their front door and bedroom windows before evacuating uninjured, police said.
Three fire departments responded to the scene and were able to extinguish the fire in about 20 minutes, police said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. The blaze appears to have originated in the garage, but the source and official point of origin are pending further investigation, police said.
South Brunswick Fire Chief Chris Perez told ABC New York station WABC-TV that there were smoke detectors in the home but they were not operational.
The children’s mother works overnight as a nurse and wasn’t home at the time of the fire, according to Livio, who said the family came by afterward to thank him.
The father told WABC his family is safe and that they are grateful to first responders, Livio and the mystery woman. He told ABC News in a brief phone call that he was working on finding them a place to stay Wednesday night.
A police spokesperson told ABC News the woman who helped left amid the fire response and they are working to identify her so they can give her recognition.
“I credit Mr. Livio, along with the unidentified woman, and their quick thinking and heroic actions, with saving the family,” South Brunswick Township Police Chief Raymond Hayducka said in a statement.
Livio said wouldn’t call himself a hero, but a “good neighbor.”
“I hope that what I did for somebody they would do the same for me,” he said.
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