The Northern Westchester Examiner

Neighbors Help Save Woman from Burning Yorktown Home

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A Yorktown woman who recently had hip replacement surgery was rescued by quick thinking neighbors Sunday morning after her home on Wildwood Street was quickly engulfed in flames by high wind gusts.

Maria Eliseo, 48, who was sleeping upstairs when the fire broke out at approximately 11:30 a.m., was helped down a ladder by neighbor Brian Avery and another rescuer, Robert Cole, and carried to safety with assistance of another neighbor, Joshua Reed.

Avery, who was called a hero by state Senator Greg Ball, said his daughter, Olivia, 17, alerted him to the fire at the Eliseo residence. He ran outside and met Marie Eliseo, the oldest of three college-age children, who told him her mother was still in the home. When he opened the front door, Avery said he was hit with a wall of smoke, so he shut the door and tried to climb the porch roof to get to the upper level.

When those efforts failed, Avery, 48, a senior master sergeant in the New York Air National Guard, retrieved an extension ladder from his garage and positioned it against the Eliseo home with the help of others. He ran up the ladder and saw Maria partially out the bathroom window. Fighting the smoke, Avery and Cole were able to get Maria out of the home and away from danger.

“I thanked God for his presence, as there was no way I was getting Maria out of the window and down the ladder on my own,” Avery said of Cole. “I headed down the ladder to guide her down, while Robert remained on the roof to get Maria on the ladder. I am certain others were there helping. However, I was focused on one thing only; getting my neighbor to safety. Robert deserves credit for what he did. The day would surely turned out differently if he was not there.”

About 150 firefighters from eight area fire departments responded to the blaze, which took about three hours to contain and destroyed the home. Mohegan Fire Chief Adam Cerrato told reporters firefighters were unable to enter the home when they arrived since it was deemed unsafe. He noted the winds also made attacking the fire problematic. No cause has been determined. Three firefighters and three others, including Maria Eliseo, suffered minor injuries, mainly from smoke inhalation, and were treated at Hudson Valley Hospital Center.

Avery said the Eliseo family is close-knit and currently staying locally with relatives. Friends and neighbors are also pitching in to assist in any way they can.

“The Eliseo’s are a strong, close-knit family with hearts of gold,” Avery said. “The kids are working their way through college, and “Big G” (Giulio Eliseo) is a professional butcher. Any one of them would give their shirts off their backs to help someone else in need.”

Ball, who first met Avery in 2011 and noted he has volunteered at all veterans events the senator has been involved with, commended him for his “swift and heroic efforts.”

“I would like to personally thank Brian, along with the police, fire and EMS first responders, for their heroic efforts. Brian is a hero, and should be commended for his selfless dedication to our community.”

Avery, who has lived in Yorktown for 14 years with his wife Diane and two children, said while he appreciates Ball’s gesture he doesn’t consider himself a hero.

“I was an ordinary citizen in the right place at the right time. Nothing more,” Avery said. “In my experience, the real heroes don’t get to witness the results of their deeds. The countless fallen soldiers I flew home from the desert, never to see their loved ones again, they are heroes. The soldiers who lost limbs and suffer from physiological problems as a result of our wars, they are heroes. The professional police, firefighters, EMS and other first responders, who have the fortitude to do this every day, they are heroes. The families of these men and women, who live every day praying that their mother, father, sister, brother come home, or have to live with the fact that they will never come home, they are the heroes.”

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