New Jersey officer honored after rescuing family from house fire

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A week ago, a fast-moving fire destroyed a South Jersey home.

On Thursday, the man who risked his life to save the residents is now being honored for his selfless bravery.

This hero ran into a burning home, not once, but twice, to save people.

And to say this family is overwhelmed with gratitude is an understatement.

Officer Ugur Akilli, on June 17, says he saw smoke coming from the garage of a home on Concord Court in Upper Deerfield Township in Cumberland County.

Akilli, who lives nearby, jumped into action to save children and their grandparents.

"I rushed through the door. The first thing I saw was a little girl. I grabbed her, and got her out. I started yelling for everybody to get out," said Akilli. "There was an elderly man in there. We call him grandpa. I took them out from the couch. Then helped grandma get out."

Akilli broke the front door open to save that family.

Neighbors say he was carrying out family members on his shoulders.

He was off duty at the time of the incident, but his training kicked in.

As a law enforcement officer, we're trained to run towards danger. So it's just a normal thing, I guess. Just your instinct, instinct," said Mike Gallagher, vice president of PBA Local 105.

The ceremony took place outside of South Woods State Prison, where Akilli has worked for seven years.

Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.