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Queens Chronicle

Heroism in the heat of the blaze

A neighbor helps save an elderly man from his burning apartment

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Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:15 am, Thu Nov 21, 2013.

Pablo Herran doesn’t view himself as a hero. He just chuckles, shakes his head and smiles at the thought of being called one.

How he reacted in order to save his neighbor from his burning apartment on Tuesday night was no laughing matter.

“I’m not a hero,” Herran said. “My first reaction was to help. Anyone would have done it if they were there.”

When a fire broke out in a third-floor apartment in a residential complex at 84-70 129 St. in Kew Gardens around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Herran took action.

As he got off the elevator on his way to his apartment down the hallway, the door of the residence adjacent to the elevator flew open and cries for help echoed out through the smoke

The man who lives there with his wife is in his late 80s and is a partial amputee. His attendant and wife were calling for help.

“The attendant was yelling ‘Help me, there’s a fire’ as smoke poured out of the apartment,” he said. “His wife tried to help him across the living room but she couldn’t find his wheelchair in the panic, so I went in, picked him up and carried him into the hallway where other people came and grabbed him.”

The heroic act, the 36-year-old said, lasted only a matter of a few minutes. Once the elderly man was whisked away to safety by neighbors, Herran ran down the hallway to get his wife and three children to safety.

Eleven people, including eight firefighters, suffered minor injuries during the four-alarm blaze, which took about two hours to extinguish, according to the FDNY.

Multiple apartments on multiple floors suffered some degree of damage and four families had to receive temporary housing from the Red Cross, according to a Red Cross spokesman.

According to Herran, who has been living in the building since 1992, this is the sixth fire he can remember in the building and all of its residents are constantly on alert for signs of trouble.

“Every time there’s a loud noise, everyone pokes their heads out of their apartments,” he said. “Everyone is really tight knit here.”

Herran said his apartment was not damaged despite being on the floor where the fire originated. Fifth-floor resident Moviz Sieddiq’s apartment wasn’t so lucky.

The 45-year-old’s wife and four children escaped the blaze unharmed but their apartment and its contents were heavily damaged as the fire spread to higher floors.

“Every wall is damaged and all of my windows are broken,” Sieddiq said. “It’s going to take time to fix everything, it’s going to cost thousands of dollars.”

The Pakistani man was not home at the time of the fire, but arrived shortly after his wife had evacuated and called him. The family, like other residents, have been displaced and are staying with relatives a few blocks away.

Even though Sieddiq’s possessions sit covered in soot and soaked in water in his damaged apartment, he is just relieved that no one was seriously injured in the fire.

“My family is all right,” he said. “That’s the most important thing.”

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