On Thursday, May 9, The 200 Club of Essex County presented Valor Awards to Maplewood Police Sergeant James DeFazio and Officer Robert Smith (2nd & 3rd from right) for their heroic and successful effort to rescue a blind teenager and his unconscious mother from a residential fire that left 14 people homeless. On hand to congratulate the officers were (left to right) Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura, Maplewood Police Chief James DeVaul, Maplewood Deputy Chief Albert Sally and 200 Club President Lori Hennon Bell.
On Sept. 11, 2018, DeFazio and Smith were part of a team of public safety officers that responded to a fire on Nelson Place in Maplewood. According to a release from Kevin Lynch of the Essex County’s Sheriff’s Office, “With flames protruding from a second floor window and with heavy smoke conditions, the officers entered the residence where Smith discovered, rescued and removed a blind male who had been asleep in a second floor bedroom.”
Lynch continued, “Re-entering the building, DeFazio alerted Smith that he had made a forced entry to another bedroom with a Halligan Hook. Here, he discovered a breathing, yet unconscious, female victim. The officers also evacuated and provided her with oxygen until EMS arrived on the scene.”
But DeFazio and Smith were not yet finished.
“Upon reports that a young child may still be in the burning building, the officers made yet another entry for search and rescue. A thorough search of the residence yielded no other victims.”
The release noted that “During this life-threatening incident, DeFazio and Smith placed themselves in harm’s way several times.”
Read Village Green’s report on the fire here:
Maplewood Mother and Son Rescued from Apartment Fire, 14 Left Homeless, September 11, 2018