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Off-duty firefighter rescues couple, cat on Christmas

December 27, 2011 4:40:11 AM PST
An off-duty firefighter was driving home on Staten Island with his family on Christmas, when he spotted a house fire and was able to rescue two people and a cat trapped by the flames.

"We were awakened by a woman screaming," said George Aiello, a neighbor.

The sounds of Christmas night took a terrifying yet fateful turn.

"It had to be Christmas, it had to be Christmas," said Allen Palazzo, a neighbor.

The flames that poured from the now boarded up home, catching the eye of an off-duty firefighter who just happened to be driving past with his family on their way home from Christmas dinner at around 11:45 Sunday night.

"And when I turned down the block I saw flames coming from the front of a private dwelling. I saw a lady in her nightgown on the front lawn with her face burnt, screaming that her babies were inside," said Steven Carl, a firefighter.

Steven Carl of Ladder 81, quick thinking and brave, jumped from his car and into action.

"I ran around the rear of the house and I saw an elderly couple on the balcony where heavy smoke was coming out, the fire underneath them. I was able to look in the backyard and found a ladder and put it up to them," Carl said.

Before other firefighters could arrive, Carl managed to carry the man and woman, both in their 60's, down the ladder to safety, as well as their 20-year-old cat.

"I'm just glad I happened to be there and was able to help the people out because they were in pretty bad shape. The lady was burnt, the husband was bleeding and his hair was singed. Time was of the essence, there was a fire underneath us and it was just any second before they caught on fire," Carl said.

The fire destroyed the home, but renewed the spirit of those who watched this unlikely holiday rescue.

"I believe in fate, just wasn't their time," Aiello said.

"It's just a Christmas miracle, that's it," Palazzo said.

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