Residents of 12 apartments in Ellenville likely owe their lives to two village police officers who defied the flames and smoke of an early Friday morning fire to alert them to the blaze and get them out safely.
Sgt. Robert Morse and Officer Ulysses Young kicked in doors, awakened residents, and led them to safety after responding to the 2:20 a.m. fire at Emerald Pond Estates on Route 209 in the village, according to a press release posted to the police department’s Facebook page by Ellenville Police Chief Philip Mattracion.
“The real difference maker here between the fact that there were no injuries, and the possibility of multiple fatalities, is twofold,” Mattracion said. “First, the fast response of the members of the Ellenville Police Department who were patrolling at the time, and the heroic actions of Sgt. Robert Morse and Officer Ulysses Young. Both of these officers kicked in doors and entered smoke-filled apartments in order to evacuate and rescue residents safely from a fully engulfed burning building. They did so without hesitation and without fear for their own lives, and with great personal risk of death or serious physical injury to themselves.”
Once all residents were accounted for, the officers again entered the burning building to rescue a dog owned by one of the families, Mattracion added.
“If not for their quick response, and heroic actions, there certainly would have been numerous lives lost today,” the chief concluded.
Both officers sustained injuries – smoke inhalation and a leg injury – after kicking in apartment doors and entering the smoke-filled apartments. Ellenville Rescue Squad brought them to Ellenville Regional Hospital, where they were treated and released several hours later.
Eleven fire companies fought the blaze for five hours before it was out: Ellenville, Napanoch, Cragsmoor, Kerhonkson, Accord, Stone Ridge, Summitville, Wurtsboro, Bloomingburg, Walker Valley, and Grahamsville.
Small-town compassion ruled afterwards. The residents were brought to Village Hall for temporary shelter, and food was provided by Ellenville School District. The American Red Cross is helping the families, most of whom lost everything in the conflagration.