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MTA Bridge And Tunnel Officers Help Rescue Residents From Burning Building In Queens

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The MTA says eight Bridge and Tunnel police officers helped rescue more than a dozen people from a fire Wednesday morning at an apartment building in Queens.

The two-alarm fire broke out around 6:30 a.m. at a building on 51st Avenue near the Queens Midtown Tunnel in Long Island City.

The officers were on duty when they spotted smoke and flames coming from the building and rushed to the scene. That's when they began going door-to-door to wake up residents.

"Once we gained entry and started kicking doors, people started coming out and asking what was going on and we were screaming, 'fire,'" Owens told WCBS 880's Alex Silverman.

MTA Bridge And Tunnel Officers Help Rescue Residents From Burning Building In Queens

The officers say that even though they have minimal fire training, instinct kicked in, CBS 2's Alice Gainer reported.

Officer Joseph Vasquez said as residents were evacuating, they found a closed door and knew someone had to be inside.

"We kept banging on the door, banging on the door and no one would answer, but we knew there had to be someone there and eventually it opened and we found about six or seven more individuals," he told 1010 WINS. "I just kept screaming, saying 'there's a fire, there's a fire' and just ripped them out of the room as best we could."

"They were yelling, 'Get out! Get out!' But in Spanish," resident Jeannie Romero said.

After getting everyone out of the building, the MTA said the officers then evacuated residents from adjacent buildings.

"We got everybody out safely," Owens said. "I'm glad we were there."

MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said he was proud of the officers' "selfless actions to protect the public."

"Our Bridge and Tunnel officers work around the clock to protect our customers from hazards of vehicular traffic, but when they saw lives at risk off our property, these brave officers did not hesitate to plunge into danger to save them," he said in a statement.

Vasquez and Officer Ronald Linck were taken to the hospital and treated for cuts, bruises and smoke inhalation, the MTA said. Five firefighters were also hurt.

No civilians were injured in the blaze, authorities said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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