A father and his four children were rescued from a house fire early in the morning by a neighbor and a passer-by who saw smoke rising from the home’s garage and was 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 the window around 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 message opinion.
As the man – identified by police as 85-year-old Santo Livio – went outside to conduct further checks, he saw a woman who regularly walks the neighborhood also coming down the street.
“I yell at her, I said, ‘Do you think that’s a fire, that smoke?’ And she says yes,” Livio told ABC News.
The woman ran up the driveway and started banging on the front door, while Livio started banging on a window, he said.
Livio said he banged on the window for about a minute or two before running home to call 911 while the woman continued to knock on the door.
“When I got back to my door, I saw the people who lived in the house come out and she told them her house was on fire. And the man said, ‘What fire?’ And she says, ‘Look,'” said Livio. “He looked up and said, ‘Oh my God.'”
The family were asleep at the time and were awakened by Livio and the woman banging on their front door and bedroom windows before they evacuated unharmed, police said.
Three fire brigades were on site and were able to extinguish the fire within about 20 minutes, the police said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The fire appears to have started in the garage, but the source and official place of origin have yet to be investigated, police said.
South Brunswick Fire Chief Chris Perez said so ABC New York broadcaster WABC that there were smoke detectors in the house, but they were not working.
The children’s mother works as an overnight nurse and was not home at the time of the fire, according to Livio, who said the family stopped by to say thank you afterwards.
The father told WABC his family was safe and that they were grateful to first responders, Livio and the mystery woman. He told ABC News in a brief phone call that he was working to find her a place to stay Wednesday night.
A police spokesman told ABC News that the woman who helped out has left the fire scene and work is being done to identify her so that she can be recognized.
“I owe Mr. Livio, along with the unidentified woman, her quick thinking and heroic actions for saving the family,” South Brunswick Township Police Chief Raymond Hayducka said in a statement.
Livio said he would not describe himself as a hero but as a “good neighbor”.
“I hope that what I’ve done for someone will do the same for me,” he said.