As flames tore through a condo complex in New Milford on Thursday morning, a North Haven dad who was delivering school supplies to children of soldiers injured in war became a hero for residents and saved lives.
A fire broke out in a ground-floor apartment at 466 Danbury Road in New Milford this morning, damaging eight condos. Everyone made it out safely, but a dog was lost.
Angelo Appi, who had just delivered 110 boxes of school supplies to Operation Homefront, a program to support children of wounded veterans, was driving by on Route 7 and stopped when he saw smoke pouring from the building.
Appi said he spotted an elderly woman trying to get back into her burning condo in search of her dog, so he stopped her from going inside and went after the pooch himself.
"The woman that was living downstairs just fell into my arms and she couldn't breathe. I was holding her," said Nicole Whitaker, who lives nearby. "I had soot all over me. She would not leave her house because of her dog."
Try as he might, Appi couldn't find the woman's pet.
"I went inside as far as I could to try and help the dog," he explained. "Unfortunately, I got overcome by smoke and flames."
Other residents told Appi a woman who lives above the apartment where the fire broke out was still unaccounted for. He and another man went up after her.
"We banged on the door numerous times to the point that we were going to break the door down. But then she opened the door," Appi explained. "She actually answered the door and we got her out safely. Not even one minute after we got her off the second floor, it went up in flames."
The three rushed downstairs just in time.
"He's a hero," said Nicole Whitaker, who lives in nearby in a building firefighters managed to shield from the flames.
Photos from the scene this morning show flames shooting through the roof. The fire spread and caused heavy damage, and firefighters had to lay their hoses along Route 7 to connecto to a hydrant.
One person was taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation but no other injuries were reported, according to the deputy fire chief.
Part of Route 7 North in Danbury was closed as a result, according to state police.
Firefighters are investigating to determine the cause of the fire. The American Red Cross is helping 11 residents affected by the blaze, including a family of three in need of emergency housing.