When Arcangelo Capozzolo Jr. saw his neighbor’s garage on fire on Oct. 4, he could have just called 911 and waited for firefighters to get there. But he couldn’t be sure that they would arrive in time.
So he took matters into his own hands.
Thanks to his quick thinking and a nearby garden hose, the 16-year-old Canisius High School junior likely saved a house and earned the respect of his local fire department.
But Arcangelo said he wasn’t thinking of any of that when he sprung into action. He said he was merely trying to live up the motto that has been stressed to him at Canisius: Always be a man for others.
“In that instance, I wasn’t going to just let their house burn to the ground and watch it and know that there was a fire going on. I was going to do something about it,” Arcangelo said in a brief telephone interview Thursday after he was awarded a certificate of appreciation at the Harris Hill Volunteer Firehouse.
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“This was an awesome act by a youth in our community,” Harris Hill Fire Chief Steven Pollard said in a statement Thursday. “His actions prevented what would have been a total loss.”
Arcangelo said he was in shock when he got off his school bus around 4 p.m. that day and saw flames bursting from his neighbor’s garage on Thornwood Lane. Still, he ran toward the blaze, determined to put it before the fire could grow.
“There was a hose on the side of the house, and I was able to grab that, and I was able to extinguish the fire, more or less, on the whole bottom part of the house,” Arcangelo said.
He said the fire appeared to have started in a wooden pallet on the ground that had rags around it, and there also were paint cans nearby.
“The real part of it was there were two propane tanks sitting right next to the pallets,” he said.
After calling 911 to report the fire, he used his neighbor’s garden hose to extinguish the burning pallet, including the materials that were on fire around it, as well as the flames that had begun to climb up a wall of the garage toward the roof.
“I took that out with the hose myself, and when the fire department got to the scene after I had called 911, they were pretty much shocked. That’s what led to all this uproar about it, which I’m very thankful for,” Arcangelo said.
He also credited his mother, Kim Capozzolo, for teaching him to be considerate and to think of others.
“We’ve just been overwhelmed by the amount of lovely recognition for something that he did out of of the goodness of his heart,” Kim Capozzolo said.
“I know I’m his mom, be he is very exceptional,” she added.
Pollard said he presented Arcangelo with a certificate of appreciation.
“It was a ‘Citizens Above and Beyond’ award for his quick actions,” he said.
The commendation coincides with National Fire Prevention Week, which this year runs from Oct. 9 to 15.
Pollard said the Harris Hill Fire Company has a junior program that offers some youth between the ages of 14 and 17 training in the rigors of firefighting, which, he said, he briefly discussed with Arcangelo and his mom.
“We will give them some training on the premise that when he turns 18, he will already have that training and then he will be a regular volunteer firefighter, like a lot of our other members are. So it helps us and it helps the community to get people involved like that,” Pollard said.
It is an offer Arcangelo said he is very likely to take.