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NY teens lauded as heroes after fire rescue

Brothers Robby and Billy Zoller alerted the Stenzinger family that their house was on fire by banging on their door in the middle of the night

By Ellen Yan

LONG ISLAND, N.Y. — Not long after midnight Thursday, two teenagers banged on the front door of Suzi Stenzinger’s Bayport home.

Startled, her first thought was hoodlums.

But now, Stenzinger has a different name for brothers Robby and Billy Zoller, the two boys at her door that night — heroes — because her house was on fire and she and her family were asleep and didn’t know it.

“They’re not planning a funeral — all because of those two boys in the backyard,” Stenzinger, 50, said.

Ever since, she’s been contacting the boys’ principal at Bayport-Blue Point High School, an Islip Town councilwoman and the media to highlight what they did around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, including jumping over a stockade fence to warn them.

“I was like, ‘What kind of gift card should I get them?’ ” Stenzinger recalled, “and I was thinking ‘What are you crazy? They forever gave you life. They cannot go unrecognized.’”

By chance, Robby, 16, had woken up around 1:15 a.m. and looked out the window next to his bed, toward the home of his backyard neighbors.

“I saw there was a fire and I was like, ‘Oh, maybe the neighbors are having a bonfire,” said the younger teen, an 11th-grader. “I keep looking at it and I was like, ‘Holy crap, the house is on fire.’ ”

He woke up his mother, Roberta Zoller, and they burst into his 17-year-old brother Billy’s bedroom. As their mom spoke to 911, her sons raced outside, hurdling over the 4- or 5-foot stockade fence that separated the neighbors’ yards.

Billy cut his thumb on the fence, a minor injury, and as they dashed toward the house, they could see the flames rising as high as the roof in the back of Stenzinger’s home. The deck was on fire, right where the barbecue grill was, under the second-floor bedroom of Stenzinger’s 13-year-old son, Sam.

“Suzi, your house is on fire,” the two screamed. “Get out of the house.”

They banged on what turned out to be Stenzinger’s first-floor bedroom window, and the groggy mother woke up. Stenzinger had had a long day — her daughter Ally, 9, had sung at a school concert, then they returned home for a barbecue dinner with her two children and her boyfriend.

“She didn’t even know that we were actually her neighbors at first,” Billy Zoller said. “She thought we were just some idiot teenaged kids knocking on her door at 1 o’clock trying to sell her solar panels or something.”

Stenzinger said she woke up her boyfriend, yelled at Ally in her bedroom to get up, ordered her to get the dog and get out into the front yard, and screamed up the staircase for Sam to come down.

The mother threw a blanket onto the yard for her children to sit on, while in the back, her boyfriend sprayed the flames with water from a garden hose.

Billy Zoller, a junior firefighter in the Bayport department, said he worried the grill’s propane tanks would explode.

Bayport Fire Chief Paul Dolce said about 25 firefighters dashed to the scene and found more smoke than fire. “It had been extinguished pretty well,” Dolce said.

The cause of the fire is not suspicious, he said.

Stenzinger believes the fire started in the barbecue grill. The fire damage was confined to the exterior of the house, she said.

But however the fire started, she said, she admires her teenage neighbors for staying with her family until the very end, comforting her children.

“She gave me a hug,” the older teenager said. “I liked that.”

Robby Zoller said he did what he had to do and afterward was just worried about getting enough sleep for school.

“I was just glad everybody was OK,” he said. “I guess I’m a good neighbor, but I’m not a hero.”

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