Paulsboro officer Nicole Thigpen says she was on duty when the fire call came in Oct. 21. When she got home, she saw flames were rolling over her roof and found Assemblyman John Burzichelli putting the fire down with a garden hose.
Burzichelli happened to be at his father's house, which is behind Thigpen's residence, and saw the smoke and flames. The lawmaker and his brother, Ted, hopped over a fence that separates the properties, and his brother got Thigpen's dogs out of the home while Burzichelli fought the fire.
It was later determined that an electrical problem sparked the blaze. And Thigpen says firefighters told her the home may have been destroyed if Burzichelli had not acted quickly to snuff it out.
Burzichelli, a Democrat who serves as the Assembly's deputy speaker, doesn't believe he did anything extraordinary.
"I don't want to make things out of proportion; I saw the smoke coming from the back porch, and fortunately there was a garden hose nearby," Burzichelli told the newspaper. "I just think it's something that anyone would do. Anyone in my position would have done the same thing."
Thigpen, who has been living behind the elder Burzichelli for nine years, disagreed. She added that her experience as a police officer has shown her that few people place themselves in a potentially dangerous situation during an emergency.
"A lot of people don't have the courage to jump in and do it. They just wait until the emergency crews get there," she said. "I think it's a big deal.