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Family thanks Smithfield officer for house fire rescue

Posted July 13, 2009
Updated July 14, 2009

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— A quick thinking Smithfield police officer is being credited with getting a family safely out of a burning house.

Smithfield officer helps pull family from fire Smithfield officer helps pull family from fire

Officer Thomas Lee said he was about to get off work when he decided to take another ride down Market Street around 2 a.m. Monday. He smelt smoke drifting across the roadway and turned his car around. He then spotted flames at the 1411 W. Market St. house.

The officer knocked on the door and woke up the sleeping family of five.

"I went to the bedroom windows and started beating on the windows,” Lee said.

"He was just banging on the window saying our house was on fire,” Gissell Callejas said.

Callejas, 19, her two young sisters and parents were inside the burning home.

"You could smell all the smoke and I started to choke,” Callejas said.

Callejas said the only available door they had to get out of the house was at the carport, which was covered in flames. So they rushed to a small window at the back of the home and Lee helped them to safety.

"Thank you very, very much, because maybe, if it wasn't for him, we could still be trapped in there,” Callejas said.

Lee, a former school teacher, has only been on the police force for a little more than a year.

"I put on my uniform every day and I ask for God to put me in the right place at the right time. And I truly feel this morning, he did that,” Lee said.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control shortly before 3 a.m. Smithfield Fire Marshal Paul Whitehurst said the fire started in a vehicle under the carport and spread to the house.

No one was injured.

The Red Cross is helping assist the displaced family. They were renting the home and did not have renter's insurance.

18 Comments

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  • think1st Jul 14, 2009

    Good news. Great Job!

  • Journey985 Jul 14, 2009

    Amberail1, While I totally disagree with what mtr said, I disagree with what you said, people go into burning houses ALL the time to save people, they're called firefighters, and as a former firefighter, I know that police officers recieve similar training for these situations. I commend the officer on a job well done and in the end, his knocking saved the day!! While everyone knows I have no love of LEO's this one proved there are still some good ones out there!!

  • johnbenennis Jul 14, 2009

    i have to agree with missjohnston, if all these people only knew some of the stuff that goes on in johnston county... well, mainly benson. But great job officer!!!!

  • frftr187 Jul 14, 2009

    Surely will be a highlight in your career!
    Job well done!

  • lilbittyt13 Jul 14, 2009

    great to see postive report on a police officer. helps to reinforce what i tell people all the time .
    great job officer!
    to mtr -if he needed to enter house -i'm sure he would have .

  • Historian-the naked gardener Jul 14, 2009

    "I put on my uniform every day and I ask for God to put me in the right place at the right time. And I truly feel this morning, he did that"

    We need more like him!!!!

    Great job Officer Lee!!!!

  • NC is my home Jul 14, 2009

    For many years I volunteered in Smithfield & have nothing but the utmost respect for the law enforcement there. They are among the most professional people I've ever known. MissJohnston04 is misguided!

    Thanks to all the law enforcement, fire fighters, rescue squad, etc. everywhere who daily put their own lives in harms way to serve & protect others. God bless each & everyone! You are appreciated.

  • Jul 14, 2009

    The officer "smelt" smoke? LOL

  • FromClayton Jul 14, 2009

    mtr, why would you go into a burning house when you can get the job done by knocking on the window and helping them OUT. what a silly thing to say.

  • lovecarolinagutters Jul 14, 2009

    Too bad they lost most of what they had, but blessed to have escaped with their lives.

    mtr...ever hear of "if you can't say something nice, keep your mouth shut"?

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