By Steve Ghiringhelli, Staff WriterAugust 21, 2014
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The quick actions of two Fort Drum employees recently helped put out an Antwerp house fire and save two frightened pets home alone inside.
After making a routine service call at Range 17 on July 31, Paul Gleason and Mike Hewitt, both carpenters assigned to the Public Works' Buildings and Grounds Branch on post, followed Sprague-ville Road down along the installation border before reaching Antwerp just before 11 a.m.
As they drove down Main Street, Hewitt spotted smoke coming from a residence and told Gleason to turn around.
Gleason, a resident of Antwerp who served with its fire department for 10 years, knew it would probably take some time before local volunteer firefighters got the call and made their way to the scene.
As they pulled up, they saw smoke rolling out from under the eaves of the roof. Hewitt called 911 while Gleason headed to the house.
A small dog sitting in a window jumped back inside as Gleason began pounding on the front door. A neighborhood boy informed him that nobody was home, so Gleason broke through the screen door and managed to open the front door.
Once inside, he hollered out and looked for signs of life. Upstairs, unbearable smoke forced him back down the stairs. He entered a bedroom and spotted a cat on the bed. It screamed, twisted and jumped from his arms when he picked it up.
Gleason rolled the cat in a blanket and rushed it over to the neighbors.
In time, two firefighters pulled up in a truck. Hewitt helped them roll out the hose. The home's own-er also appeared and wanted to enter the burning house.
"I slowed her down and told her the only thing she can (do) is holler for her dog and that it would hopefully come out," said Gleason, noting he had seen her dog under a bed.
Less than a minute passed before the little dog scurried out.
Gleason and Hewitt helped the firefighters set up the drop tank and connect hoses for pumping the water.
They also assisted with the ladder. Once firefighters from other districts including Oxbow, Fort Drum and Great Bend arrived, Gleason and Hewitt decided to head back to their shop.
Other than some obvious damage, they said the house survived the fire.
At Fort Drum and in their communities, Gleason and Hewitt are known as exceptional men who regularly go above and beyond in their duties as both employees and citizens.
Timothy Cerow, chief of Fort Drum's Buildings and Grounds Branch, said he was not at all surprise to hear that the two employees responded the way they did.
"They have always been outstanding members of their community," he said.
Hewitt, who joked that he and Gleason were both "volunteer firefighters" that day, said he was glad to help a community member in need.
"I did it because if my house was on fire, I would hope that somebody would do the same thing," he said.
Gleason said he does not think too much of his actions.
"I don't think we did anything extraordinary," he said. "I'd do the same thing again."
Each employee has been nominated for a Spirit of the Garrison Award, recognition that Cerow said both dedicated and dependable employees deserve.
"I know the Buildings and Grounds Branch is proud of them, as I am sure so is the whole Fort Drum community," he said. o