A New Jersey homeowner who barely escaped his burning home Wednesday says he has two police officers to thank for rescuing him.
Christian Harris was in his Elizabeth home when a fire broke out in his attic, according to officials. Thick, heavy smoke began billowing from the windows and roof, and the fire quickly overtook the house.
Elizabeth police officer Derrick Cheatham and his partner arrived on the scene and rushed into the house, bringing Harris out along with two plumbers working inside.
"He had no idea," Cheatham said. "He came up from the basement and he had no idea."
They escaped just as the smoke became suffocating.
"The smoke overtook us," Harris said. "I tried to get to my office to get something. Wasn't the flames but the fumes that really overtook me."
Soon after, the fire quickly consumed the interior of the 1930s home. The burned remains brought Harris' wife, Janet, to tears Wednesday night.
"I'm just really glad the house could be put back together, but you know, the memories are gone, the pictures are gone," she said.
"But we're alive," she continued. "I can't be too sad."
A preliminary investigation shows the flames started in the attic but grew in between the frame and the exterior of the house, pushing the fire to three alarms and challenging first responders. It's a fire that easily could have turned deadly if the police officers hadn't arrived and entered the home.
"I'm just really grateful they did that," Harris said. "Really grateful."
Cheatham said that for his part, he "just had to do what I had to do."
Two firefighters went to the hospital with minor injuries from the fire.
The house was boarded up Wednesday night, and the family plans to begin rebuilding Thursday.