A Depew police officer and a concerned neighbor roused a Lee Street man inside his burning home and pulled him to safety through a broken window and a cloud of smoke early today after being rebuffed initially by a plastic covering around the window.
The resident, Mark A. Brautlacht, 41, of 35 Lee St., was taken to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, where he was released after being treated for smoke inhalation and hand lacerations, authorities said.
Responding to a 1:49 a.m. alarm, Officer Jason Ostrach, a four-year veteran, found the garage and part of the one-story home engulfed in flames. He and a neighbor from across the street, David DiCesare, started banging on the windows to determine whether anyone was trapped inside.
"We looked in the front bedroom window, and with my flashlight, we could see there was a guy in there," Ostrach said later this morning.
Ostrach and the neighbor broke the window with the flashlight but found the window covered by a plastic sheet.
Brautlacht later told police that he had a functioning smoke detector, but he apparently didn't hear it until the two men began banging on his bedroom window.
Police and fire officials blamed improper disposal of fireplace ashes for sparking the fire. Brautlacht told authorities that he had placed the ashes from a fire in a plastic container in the carport. The blaze left $80,000 damage to Brautlacht's home and $30,000 to the contents, including his vehicle, which was parked in the carport. The fire also caused $7,000 damage next door, at 29 Lee St.
The fire was reported by a next-door neighbor who saw a bright light in her window.
Officer Ostrach, who credited DiCesare for getting involved, downplayed any hero's role for himself: "All I did was break a window and get a guy out."