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Buffalo officer rescues three from burning Riverside home

Buffalo Police Officer Richard Cruz was the first person to respond to a burning home in the Riverside area early Monday morning, and when he heard the screams of a trapped woman, he knew he couldn’t wait for responding firefighters to arrive.

Cruz’s actions helped save the lives of the woman and her two children, fire officials said later Monday in applauding him for his actions.

Responding to the 12:06 a.m. fire call, the Northwest District police officer heard the woman screaming for help from the second-floor rear porch at 142 Roesch Ave., where she was trapped with her two children.

So Cruz ran back along the side of the house to see what he could do to help them. Fortunately, the woman had a portable escape ladder, which she lowered as far as she could, fire officials said.

“He helped them get down the ladder, the woman and her two kids,” Buffalo Fire Marshal Edwin Ortiz said. But when Cruz attempted to bring the three residents to safety the same way he had run between the two houses, he found the route blocked by flames.

So he led them to the other side of the house, where he helped them over a fence to safety.

Buffalo fire officials praised Cruz for his quick thinking and willingness to help, especially since he hasn’t been trained as a firefighter.

“He did a great job,” Ortiz said. “As a police officer, he went above and beyond.”

City fire officials said the fire started on the second-floor exterior of the frame home and spread inside, leaving an estimated $40,000 damage. The cause is under investigation.

The burned home is near the northern edge of Riverside Park, not far from the intersection of Vulcan and Tonawanda streets.