Police Officers Rescue 5 People From Queens Blaze

Police officers who had gone to a Queens housing project on a search warrant ended up rescuing five people trapped in an apartment by a fire that was raging in the kitchen, the authorities said on Saturday.

Several officers and members of the Emergency Services Unit were just finishing fulfilling the search warrant at 84-12 Rockaway Beach Boulevard when, at 7 p.m. on Friday, one of them, Sergeant John Patterson, saw a young man hanging out of a sixth-floor window of a neighboring building, 84-18 Rockaway Beach Boulevard. That man was waving his arms and screaming for help as smoke poured out from behind him.

The officers called the Fire Department as five of them headed upstairs. They tried to open the door with a key and then tried to break down the door, the police said, but the door was made of steel and the lock was broken; it would not budge. So they called the Emergency Services officers for help. Two of those officers, Detective Hassan Hamdy and Detective Frank Shomaker, forced the door open using a hydraulic drill that they wedged between the door and the door jam.

The apartment was thick with smoke as flames crawled up the walls of the kitchen, just to the left of the front door. Some of the officers began dousing the flames with pots of water, while others dropped to their hands and knees and went in search of the people trapped further inside.

“We did almost everything by feel,” said Detective Hamdy, who looked for the victims and found them by following the curves of the walls and the sounds of their voices.

He and other officers found five people, ranging in age from 8 to 22, cowering in a back bedroom. Everybody was conscious, and the officers hustled them out of the apartment. The fire was extinguished by the time firefighters arrived, Detective Hamdy added.

The 11 officers who were involved were all taken to Long Island Jewish Hospital where they were treated for smoke inhalation. The people they rescued, three of whom lived in the apartment and two of whom were visiting, were taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. One of the rescued people, a young man, also suffered a laceration to his hand. Their identities were not released.

Everybody is expected to survive.

“We were in the right place at the right time,” Detective Hamdy said. “I don’t know what could have happened,” if they hadn’t arrived, he said. “It could have probably been a lot worse.”

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