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North Babylon Man Rescues Disabled Neighbor From Burning Home

NORTH BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A disabled man, unable to escape a fire at his North Babylon home, was rescued and carried to safety by his neighbor.

Christopher Cocuzza and his family were awakened at 2:30 a.m. Sunday by smoke pouring in from next door, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported.

His neighbor's house was lit up like a torch, and North Babylon firefighters were racing to the scene.

Meanwhile, Cocuzzo, a New York City train operator on the J and R subway lines, grabbed a garden hose and a ladder.

"I saw the flames leaping out ... right through my bedroom window over there," Cocuzza said.

North Babylon house fire
Dominick Gennaro's house in North Babylon went up in flames on Nov. 29, 2015. (credit: North Babylon Fire Department)

His neighbor, Dominick Gennaro, sound asleep from his cerebral palsy seizure medication, was trapped.

"The bedroom door closed, sleeping soundly. I didn't hear. I have two smoke alarms," Gennaro said.

"It got hotter," Cocuzza said. "I dropped the hose. I said, 'I'm going to get burnt.' We ran upstairs, and I started pounding on the window. 'Dominick, get up, get up! Your house is on fire!'"

"What I heard was the crash and the window breaking, and that woke me up," Gennaro said.

"Pulled him out of the window, down to the ground," Cocuzza said. "Some other guy whisked him out to the front yard."

Cocuzza said he wishes that good Samaritan, named Joey, had stuck around for a thank you.

During the rescue, Cocuzza was overcome, his lungs burning with smoke.

Firefighters took him to the hospital, where Gennaro was waiting.

"I love him," Gennaro said. "He's like a brother to me now."

"After I got out of the hospital, he said, 'You saved my life, man.'" Cocuzza said.

Firefighters are investigating whether a heat lamp for Gennaro's pet iguana is the cause.

Cocuzza, a Navy veteran and son of a fireman, thinks courage is part of one's DNA.

"When the moment comes, you'll either know who you are or who you're not," he said.

Gennaro has been told it will take a year to rebuild his home and garage.

He said at this difficult time he is grateful to his hero neighbor and his many friends and family offering to help him through the holidays and beyond.

Cocuzza has a 4-month-old son. Gennaro was recently asked to be the baby's godfather -- and proudly accepted.

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