Local News

Family thanks Smithfield officer for house fire rescue

Posted July 13, 2009 9:45 p.m. EDT
Updated July 14, 2009 5:38 a.m. EDT

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

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.