Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Correction Department Mechanic Edward Clas Saves Three in Queens Fire by Adam Lisberg - NY Daily News

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Edward Clas with his 15-year-old daughter Kendall. Gabel for News

A hero Correction Department mechanic saved two children and an elderly woman when he ran into a neighbor's burning house and pulled everyone to safety even before the fire trucks arrived.

"I didn't even think about it - I just ran inside the house," Edward Clas, 51, a father of three in Ozone Park, Queens, told the Daily News. "I remember feeling the heat from the fire."

More than 130 firefighters responded to the three-alarm blaze on 86th St., which left two homes gutted, but no one injured.

Clas was home Wednesday afternoon when his 15-year-old daughter, Kendall, smelled smoke. When he ran to neighbor Georgina Gonzalez's house, someone yelled that children were trapped inside.

"About 10 feet inside the door was a little boy, about 3 years old, just standing there," said Clas, a 15-year Correction Department veteran. "I grabbed him and I ran out of the front of the house."

When Clas ran back inside, he found a 4-year-old boy standing scared in the middle of the stairs, and carried him to safety as well before heading back up the stairs. "I got to the top and I could hear a woman screaming," Clas said. He found an elderly woman trying to get something out of a closet, and put his hands on her shoulders to get her to leave before it was too late.

"When I stepped out onto the landing, that was when I got scared," Clas said. "The smoke had turned black. It was like someone turned out the light."

Clas was able to find his way down the stairs and to the front door through the choking smoke.

He said Gonzalez, an NYPD sergeant who works in Brooklyn's 77th Precinct, lost everything in the blaze - but all of her relatives were alive and well.

The flames also spread to the house of the Ramroop family next door.

"Everything was lost," Neil Ramroop said.

Clas, a shop steward for the mechanics who maintain Correction Department vehicles at Rikers Island, can expect to be honored at the department's next Medal Day, a department source said.