The three-alarm fire broke out in the basement of a home on Georges Road in South Brunswick around 9 a.m., and a passerby happened to spot smoke coming from a window and called 911.
MJFD firefighters rescued fellow firefighter who fell through first floor into the basement of this house fire today. FF treated at scene. pic.twitter.com/6isNuSrqDU— So Brunswick PD (@SoBrunswickPD) April 6, 2017
The homeowners were not there at the time, reportedly at church.
The first firefighters headed to the basement to knock down the flames, while a second group of three entered the first floor of the home. They got just a few feet in, on their hands and knees, when they were ordered to get out because the conditions were not safe. That's when 27-year-old Matthew Doktor, a volunteer firefighter from the Monmouth Junction Fire Department, ended up on to a spot that was compromised, causing a partial floor collapse.
"We were actually pushed out of the structure a couple of times because of the high heat and high fire," he said. "We were backing out and the floor beneath me collapsed. I fell a couple of feet and called a mayday."
It was those firefighters in the basement who rescued him and pulled him out of the back of the house.
"The firefighters that were in the basement immediately did see that firefighter go through the floor," Monmouth Junction Fire Chief Scott Smith said. "They were able to grab him and quickly remove him from the residence...He was very lucky. It was a couple of tense moments. We heard him call a mayday that was he was down, that he is trained to do. The firefighters were right there and saw him and were able to grab him and remove him."
The home suffered severe damage.
"There was heavy fire in the basement when we first arrived, which is why we couldn't initiate a search right away," Smith said. "We wanted to make sure we had that under control, for this very reason, that we weren't sure of the stability of the structure."
Covered head to toe in soot and sheet rock, Doktor was not seriously hurt and was checked out by EMS here at the scene. In fact, he wanted to get back to work, but the chief told him to take a break.
"Anything that doesn't knock you down, usually makes a good story," he said.
The homeowners are said to be extremely upset. Their dog died in the fire, and their cat is missing.