A New Jersey nightclub bouncer says he saved an elderly woman from a burning building early Sunday, carrying her outside as the flames spread.
The bouncer was working at Utopia Lounge on Dayton Avenue in Clifton when the fire erupted in the building down the street, which had apartments above ground-floor businesses.
"We smelled some smoke and all of a sudden the sky just lit up in red and we ran down there," the bouncer, Robert Berlanga, told NBC 4 New York.
Berlanga, who said he served 23 years in the Army, said he started ringing buzzers to alert residents, and after someone let him in, he and his coworker knew there were people inside. He said they went into the building and began knocking on doors, and came upon an elderly woman on the second floor whose apartment was already burning.
"So I grabbed her, picked her up and carried her outside, brought her out and ran back in the building," Berlanga said.
Berlanga and his coworker said they continued knocking on doors but were eventually forced back by thick smoke.
"It was hard to see, hard to breathe, but you know, we did what we had to do," he said.
Another man on the second floor was rescued by firefighters.
Clifton fire officials say the fire started around midnight and quickly spread; the cause is under investigation. Some 20 people are now without homes, and the Red Cross is assisting.
Berlanga said first responders told them they were crazy to do what they did.
"It ain't about being crazy," he said. "It's about thinking of other people."