Suffolk County police officer reunited with family he saved from fire

WEST BABYLON, Long Island (WABC) -- A Suffolk County police officer was reunited with a Long Island family that he assisted during the evacuation of their burning home early on New Year's Eve.

Officer Avital Donnenfeld was honored Tuesday by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart at a news conference at the Suffolk County Police Department's First Precinct in West Babylon.

"You don't find many people that are willing to go into the danger," fire survivor Theresa Hoffman said.

That's just what happened when Officer Donnenfeld was on his way back to the precinct after a night of patrol.

It was a foggy 4 a.m. when he spotted smoke coming from a home on Ecker Avenue.

The officer banged on their door, and the first two people he saw were 12-year-old Nicholas and 6-year-old Ian Hoffman.

"And when you get a smile, a hug or a tear, I think that's the greatest compliment you can have," Officer Donnenfeld said.

Their parents, though, couldn't see through all the smoke, and their dog was still missing.

"And he said, 'Just follow my light' and I said, 'I have children,'" Theresa Hoffman said. "And he said, 'You're children are out.'"

The county honored Officer Donnenfeld for his heroic actions when every second mattered.

"He remained calm as a cucumber," dad Jason Hoffman said.

The Hoffmans lost nearly everything, including their family dog.

"Because she died from the smoke," Ian Hoffman said. "Because she was too scared to go with the fireman."

They say it could be a year before they can move back in.

"It's changed me, because now I know that you can't take things for granted and you have to spend time with your family," Jason Hoffman said.

But Tuesday was all about what they've gained.

"I have more now than I had before," Theresa Hoffman said. "That's all I could say. I'm the wealthiest person."

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A family was rescued from their burning home on Long Island in the early-morning hours of New Year's Eve



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