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Firefighters Rescue Cat From Burning House, Neighbors Open Doors to Victims

A fire ripped through an East Saddle River Road house Monday afternoon, displacing a family new to the area.

Staring up at the blackened remains of his East Saddle River Road home Monday afternoon, Frank Cumbo fought back tears. 

Cumbo still has much to be thankful for, however; his teenage children were in the two-story house when utility workers noticed smoke billowing from the roof at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Emily, 15, and John, 13, managed to escape with their dog before the fire's intensity grew. Within minutes, the fast-moving blaze had roared up from the garage and consumed the home. 

Cumbo arrived home and watched the flames towering above its collapsing roof, rendering the home uninhabitable.

The family cat was also still unaccounted for.

As he watched from across the street, Ridgewood and Ho-Ho-Kus firefighters continued to fight the fire. 

Suddenly, Ridgewood Firefighter Matthew Ramge emerged from the smoky remains of the home. A soaked and visibly distressed cat shook and clawed, attempting to free itself from Ramge's grip.

Cumbo, who along with his wife Karen had been at the work at the time of the fire, ran forward and retrieved the cat, Mr. Stitches, who was taken to Oradell Animal Hospital for evaluation.

There were no injuries reported in the blaze. The fire was placed under control within about 10 minutes.

"This is what makes it worthwhile," Ridgewood Fire Chief Jim Van Goor said. "We were able to get the people out and save their pets. This is the main reason we do the job — to save lives."

As the anguished family surveyed the damage and calculated their next move; few of their possessions remained, and temperatures were plummeting into the 30s.

Support was quick to come from neighbors, most of whom only received power back within the last 48 hours after Hurricane Sandy tore through the state last week.

Many opened up their homes and showed no hesitancy in offering clothing to help the Cumbo family stay warm and eventually rebuild.

The Cumbo family have only been residents for a few months, they moved to Ridgewood from Massachusetts in September. 

"The neighbors have been just incredible," Frank Cumbo said at the scene. "We just moved here... we're so lucky to have neighbors that care."

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Ryan jennings November 06, 2012 at 02:16 AM
I saw it
Chris counsel November 06, 2012 at 05:07 AM
The ridgewood fire department did a great job. Thank you from the Cumbos next door neighbors! The pseg workers who stopped and pulled the kids out of the house are Heros!
jane shinozuka November 06, 2012 at 08:32 PM
If the Cumbos manage to see this article, please know that Norgate Drive, as well as the whole neighborhood, is behind you and wants to help in any way possible. I know you've hardly had a chance to meet most of us, but we've got a wide net of communication and resources through our Salem Ridge Association to take care of anything you need, including a place to stay. Please don't hesitate to call! Jane Shinozuka 201-739-2329
Sandy November 07, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Dear Cumbos, I have some family as your neighbors. I am very sad that before the excitement of a new house even began to wear off, you had to endure the sight of a tree barely miss your house during Sandy and then only a few days later the horrifying scene of your dreams going up in flames. My heart and prayers go out to you. Most important, your family is safe, thank God! I wish you very best as you rebuild your house and your lives together.
Karen Cumbo November 09, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Hi Jane, We are all so grateful for the wonderful neighbors in Ridgewood. Thank everyone for all the clothing, supplies, offering of homes and shelter. Makes us so glad we are rebuilding in Ridgewood. As soon as my head clears, I will let Salem Ridge Association know if there's anything else. We're working on a rental home now in the BF Middle School area. We have a golden retriever so it's tough. Thanks again, Karen Cumbo
Karen Cumbo November 09, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Thank you Sandy.
Karen Cumbo November 10, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Thank you so much Ridgwood and neighbors. I could never imagine the kind support and help everyone has given us. You have put smiles on my children's faces and reallly made a big difference in this difficult time. The kindness of everyone is truly appreciated. Thank you. The Cumbos

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