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Sean Valle was on his way to work early Friday morning when he decided to take a different route. That decision helped save lives.
Valle was driving down Central Avenue and as he made a turn on Prospect, he noticed gray smoke in the air. As he got closer to the scene he saw smoke coming from the home and two people stranded on the roof frantically waving for help.
“I stopped my car, I called 911 and I ran over to the people,” said Valle, who works in the SUEZ transportation department.
In a matter of seconds, Valle was out of his car and at the house.
Gray smoke clouds were coming from one side of a house on the corner of Central and Prospect avenues. The house was minutes away from bursting into flames, he said. As smoke quickly engulfed the sky, Valle searched frantically for a ladder to help the two people on the roof get down. Time was ticking and the two on the roof were yelling for him to help the others still inside.
“They were asking me for help and they were telling me that there were two more people on the first floor of the house,” Valle said.
With smoke emerging from only one side of the house, he grabbed a chair to stand on, but it wasn’t tall enough to reach the roof. He decided to move to the front of the house where flames were bursting out from one of the two front doors. Valle needed to warn the others.
“There were flames coming out of the top of that door and I just kept beating on the front door, to try to wake up the owners of the house,” Valle said. “And I kept yelling, does anybody have a ladder?”
A Bergenfield police officer arrived at the scene and a neighbor from across the street ran over with a ladder to help the two on the roof down. In the meantime, Valle kept banging on one of the front doors.
“I was beating on the door for at least 30 seconds before I saw the lights turn on and the people came to the door but they didn’t open it,” Valle said.
They were asleep and unaware of the smoke that was just outside their home. Valle yelled at them to get out and that “their house was on fire.” They finally stepped outside and saw the flames bursting through the right side of the house.
“It took another couple of minutes for the Fire Department to show up and by the time [they] actually got there there were flames coming out of every window,” Valle said.
It all happened in a matter of minutes, Valle said. He doesn’t call himself a hero but he said he was just “at the right place at the right time.” Valle recently sold his North Bergen home and this week, he and his fiance completed their first full week at their new home eight blocks down.
“I usually take Colombia and today I decided to take Central and these people needed help,” Valle added.
After local officials arrived at the scene, Valle texted his boss pictures of the house on fire and told him he would be late to work. He left the scene shortly after and was unable to get the names of the homeowners and the neighbor who assisted the two people on the roof. He hopes “the other people get credit for their heroism.”
“I woke two people up. I was beating on their door and I was able to wake them up so they can get out of the house,” Valle said. “If I had been the person who actually was able to get the ladder and get the two people off the roof, then maybe I would feel like a hero.”
The Bergenfield Police Department is currently investigating the cause of the fire. They did not provide information on the whereabouts of the homeowners or the other man who assisted in the rescue.