Off-duty firefighter saves man from house fire

The firefighter was on his day off working across the street on a home-improvement job when he felt the explosion and saw flames


The Advocate

STAMFORD, Conn. — An off-duty Stamford firefighter helped rescue a resident Monday after an explosion tore through the man's garage and set the house on fire around noon.

Rocco Terenzio was on his day off and working across the street from 30 Northridge Road on a home-improvement job. He said the man, Henry Calam, apparently was working with a grinder, and it appeared a spark set off fumes in the garage.

"The explosion shook me, then I saw a ball of flame coming out," Terenzio, a professional Stamford firefighter, said. "It was some kind of explosion. I ran up to the garage and yelled to the neighbors to call 911, I didn't have my phone with me."

Terenzio began searching for the man and found him dazed and inside his home. He had left the garage, which is attached to the residence.

"I kind of walked him out to the street, and the ambulance got here in two minutes," Terenzio said. Calam was later taken to Stamford Hospital with what were described as minor injuries and cuts.

The blaze in the garage quickly spread.

"There were fireworks shooting out of the garage. It was a zoo," Terenzio said. "Wild day. I guess it was a good thing I was here."

Later in the day, Calam, who is renting the home temporarily from owner Dr. Antonios Katsigiannis, inspected the damage.

"I'm thrilled to be alive. But I feel horrible about what happened," he said. Calam said he was unsure how the fire started.

Assistant Fire Chief Robert Kick said the fire moved quickly but was under control shortly after trucks got there.

"The responding firefighters were able to extinguish the fire fairly quickly considering the amount of fire on arrival," he said.

One firefighter was treated for minor smoke inhalation and released on scene.

Kick said the garage was destroyed, and there was "significant damage" to the home. About 30 to 35 firefighters responded.

Kick said the investigation into the cause of the fire was ongoing, and he could not release information on its origin.

The fire caused concern and anxiety in the quiet neighborhood, as the house has been visited before by officials and fire personnel. Police Lt. Kraig Gray said authorities were sent to the home about a month ago to investigate an unsafe condition, but no official action was taken. Neighbors said the incident in January also involved some kind of explosion.

"It's very upsetting. It's happened before," said Maria Avitabile, a Stamford woman visiting family in the neighborhood. "It's a quiet neighborhood."

State Rep. Fred Camillo, R-Greenwich, was home at the time of the fire.

"I heard a boom, then saw an EMS truck going by, and then I saw smoke -- thick, black smoke," he said.

He said there appeared to be a pattern of unsafe activity at the home.

"If this is an ongoing thing, the town should look into it," he said, "I'm concerned for the people living in the neighborhood."

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