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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."

Phone calls

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.

Community support

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.

St. Vincent Martyr Parish is accepting gift card donations as a "Fire Relief Fund" for the families affected by the fire.

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."

kathy November 21, 2012 at 12:20 PM
I have been and will continue to pray for this family and the others , as they start to rebuild thier lives. Godbless everyone. God please look over them as will need you more then ever now.. Kathy Phillips-Bodie
Mike H November 21, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Amazing. Only in Madison, and I mean that in a good and poetic way! Hat's off to Officer Cavezza. Some first class detective work when it really mattered. Very good reporting by Patch, too.
Shannon Cadogan November 21, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Hi I'm Shannon Cadogan. I was the one stuck in that fire. Just as a clarification, yes there were fire detectors and they were going off. They are in good working condition They do go off even if you over cook the bacon. It was the phone calls that made me aware something was really wrong. That phone call along with the alarms I heard in my apartment as well as the ones downstairs. I say this with no hard feelings to the ones who believe there were no smoke detectors going off. I was there and fully aware that there was a fire.
Shannon Cadogan November 21, 2012 at 03:32 PM
And thank you so much Kathy and mike for support. It is gratefully appreciated<3
Catherine Marie November 21, 2012 at 03:43 PM
I can't begin to thank the brave men and women who were on the scene. I thank God for Officer Cavezza and the firemen who saved my little sister. It was a true act of valor. These men and women put their lives on the line everyday. I do not have the words to express an ounce of the gratitude that I have for Madison's finest who went above and beyond their call of duty. All I can say is thank you. Kathy and Mike H- thanks for your kind words and prayers. And for those reading this, please check your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms weekly. It is very important that you have an fire escape route, preferably two. I would like to thank all who have made it easier for my mom, sister, and the other tenants to cope with this. It is going to be awhile before they start feeling normal again. My sister is the miracle within the tragedy. All prayers are welcome! Have a blessed day!
Catherine Marie November 21, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Oh ... I almost forgot ... roxy is the sweetest, loving, precious, and most beautiful dog ever! Oh and smart! I love you, Roxy!
The Good Guy November 21, 2012 at 04:20 PM
I'm glad to hear there were smoke detectors. I'm even more glad you were rescued and the quick action of your uncle and the Madison Police and Fire department. My prayers are with you and your Mom and I hope you two get your lives back together quickly.
The Good Guy November 21, 2012 at 04:27 PM
This should serve as a reminder to all of us to heed the warning of our smoke detectors. They are beeping for a reason. If they are over 8 years old or you don't know how old they are, they probably should be replaced. Replace the batteries yearly as well - how about when you go home tonight - even if you don't need to. I have smoke detectors in all my bedrooms, in the hallway, and several in the basement as well. They are cheap to buy at Costco (3 in a pack) and easy to install. One battery powered smoke detector in your hallway is not enough, no matter what the fire code says. Think about it, what if all the bedroom doors are closed? And as Catherine said, have an escape plan, as well as a meeting place outside your house.
Karen P November 21, 2012 at 09:10 PM
My dear Shannon, I was very pleased to meet you today under such traumatic circumstances. You're a sweet and brave girl and I hope you realize that, even though you don't see us all, we all support and care about you and all the tenants who lost their homes in that horrific fire. My thoughts are with you all. More big hugs (and a kiss on the noggin for Roxy), your neighbor Karen.
Thomas Grant November 22, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Words can't describe how grateful I am for the collective efforts of the Madison Police & Fire Depts for their selflessness and heroic actions in rescuing my niece Shay. I want to personally thank Ofc Cavezza, Firemen James Blair & Troy Pohowic for going above and beyond their call of duty. It makes me extremely proud,as a former Madison resident, of the Madison community for their rapid response in aiding their fellow citizens. Thank you all.
Emilie November 22, 2012 at 07:47 PM
I thank good that u are safe I have been going to cj deli since I was a child I will make sure to get a gift card ton the church for u Emilie g
John Grant November 22, 2012 at 09:50 PM
MADISON'S FINEST!!! Police, firefighters and ambulance personnel. I want to say thank you for putting your lives on the line for your community everyday. This past Saturday with the team work of all of you my niece was saved from this house fire. I also want to say thank you to the other fire companies who assisted and to the Madison community for pulling together once again to help people in need! THIS WAS A PRIME EXAMPLE OF GOING ABOVE AN BEYOND YOUR CALL OF DUTY!! My family has a lot to be thankful for this holiday! THANKS AGAIN!!!
Jay Bell November 24, 2012 at 01:27 AM
These are the stories that need to be put on in the mainstream media!! The heroes of our local communities and taking care of your fellow human being!!! www.firebrandcentral.com
kathy November 24, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Hi Kat Please there is no thank me we care about what happened to shay and your mom. It was a scary thing for shay and we are thankful that she is ok. kathy phillips-bodie
kathy November 24, 2012 at 02:09 PM
hi shannon no need to thank me just glad you and your mom and the others are safe. Godbless we care ... kathy phillips-bodie

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