Fire Rescue Set in Motion by Cop's Call to Friend
By the time Shannon Cadogan knew she had to get out of her burning house, there was so much smoke she couldn't see the front door.
Shannon Cadogan says it's unreal to think what would have happened if she didn't pick up her phone, or if the calls were off by a minute or two.
The 20-year-old Madison High School grad was sleeping Saturday morning in the second-floor apartment she shares with her mother on Park Avenue as the building was starting to burn. Her mom was at work at the time.
She missed a call from her uncle, John Grant, around 9:30 a.m. He called again and she picked up the second time.
"Where are you?" he asked
"I'm at home. Why?"
Grant had just received a call from a Madison police officer he's friendly with saying the house was on fire. Grant told his niece the house was on fire and she had to get out. She smelled smoke and saw the fire department. She opened the kitchen door to go downstairs.
"I couldn't see the front door," she said. "It was already completely covered in smoke."
Meanwhile, Grant was driving toward the fire. He tried calling the officer, James Cavezza, back to let him know she was inside, but didn't get through. When he reached where the road was blocked by police, he saw Cavezza and told him his niece was in the building.
Cavezza raced toward the fire, calling into his radio as he ran, Grant said.
Upon hearing someone was still inside, two Madison firefighters immediately went upstairs, where they found Cadogan holding her dog, Roxy. They told her to hold her breath and guided her outside, with one of the firefighters holding the dog, Cadogan said.
"I literally couldn't see anything. I pretty much gagged all the way down," Cadogan said. "I was crying. I didn't know what was going on."
Cadogan was taken to a hospital to be evaluated for smoke inhalation and released that day. In the minutes after they got out of the house, the fire quickly spread, and before long the multi-family home was consumed by flames. The roof and first floor eventually collapsed.
She credits the two firefighters, James Blair and Troy Pehowic, with saving her life. She also credits Cavezza and her uncle, whose phone calls let the fire department know she was in there.
Fire Chief Lou DeRosa said information from police about a person on the second floor led them to immediately send firefighters into the building instead of setting up hose lines first.
"We got the information that she was up there through the police department," DeRosa said. The information sounded "very solid" and Blair and Pehowic immediately went up to the second floor, he said.
"I thank God," Cadogan said. "They're like my guardian angels. ... they pretty much saved my life and my dog's life."
She and her mom, Sonia Cadogan, and their dog, Roxy, had lived there for about a year. They and other tenants were displaced by the fire, which is believed to have started in the basement. The cause is under investigation.
Sonia Cadogan said the chain of events is "like fate."
Sonia Cadogan's brother, Grant, is the manager of C&J's Deli on Park Avenue. Grant said he got to know Cavezza over the years through the deli and through Grant's floor-cleaning business that does work at the police station and throughout Madison.
Cavezza called him that morning to let him know his sister's home was on fire and wanted to be sure no one was home.
Acting Madison Police Chief Darren Dachisen said the phone call from Cavezza, who was the first to arrive on scene, is "a perfect example of a Madison officer knowing his community."
"It's a great thing," he said. "Everybody did a good job."
Sonia Cadogan wasn't home at the time of the fire because she was taking part in an overnight event for students with disabilities at ECLC in Chatham, where she works as a personal aide.
"I think both my daughter and I are a little numb," she said. "But the outpouring of well wishes and offers of assistance—it's overwhelming in a good away. ... I can't wrap my head around it. The way it happened it was nothing short of a miracle."
Her brother called her to let her know Shannon was on the way to the hospital and was OK.
"Between that phone call and my drive to the hospital, so much was unknown. I knew she walked to the ambulance, but all I could think about, was my daughter was in a fire and I wasn't there," Sonia Cadogan said.
She said she keeps coming back to Cavezza's phone call to her brother.
"Things can be replaced. The thing that keeps sticking ... if not for that one phone call out of care and concern I'm not sure what would have happened. It could have been a totally different story," she said.
Sonia Cadoga has lived in Madison for 41 years. She graduated from Madison High School in 1986. A box of papers with her high school yearbook was one of the few things firefighters brought out after the fire.
Grant said community members, including police and fire officials, have let him know they are there if the family needs anything.
"The whole town is coming together," he said.
As for the rescue, Grant said Cavezza's phone call went above and beyond his duty, though Cavezza tells him he was just doing his job.
Shannon Cadogan, who goes by Shay and was a cheerleader in high school, said her whole family has been in Madison for a long time.
"Everybody just knows everybody and you look out for each other," she said.
Shannon and Sonia Cadogan said there is a long list of people and organizations who helped and offered to help after the fire: St. Vincent Martyr Church, Grace Church, ECLC coworkers, the Sisters of Charity, Meg Fernandez in Basking Ridge (a friend they are staying with), Shannon's boyfriend Eric Pacio and his family, their landlord David Chiarolanzio, and all the friends and community members who have been sending a stream of text messages and phone calls their way.
Shannon Cadogan says she wants to repay the people who saved her.
"I want to do so much for them. They saved my life," she said. "I'm just thankful for my life. I'm thankful for the people that helped me have my life right now."