A Zephyrhills man has a USF police officer to thank for his life.
Call it intuition or fate.
University of South Florida Police Sgt. Drew Caffarelli saw smoke on his way into work on U.S. 301 Wednesday morning and decided to check it out.
“I could see the smoke from the road. It made me think, ‘That’s a fresh fire.’ I drove into the neighborhood and found a trailer on fire,” he said.
Caffarelli said by the time he arrived it was too hot to go inside.
“I didn’t want to get within 20 feet of it,” he said.
Caffarelli said the smoke and flames were already whipping from the roof, windows and doors.
Not knowing if someone was inside, he called 911 and yelled towards the house with hopes of alerting anyone within earshot.
”I yelled to let them […] their trailer was on fire. I asked to try to get a response. At the same point in time yelling and making enough commotion waked neighbors up,” Caffarelli said.
Just behind the home he found a man sitting on the porch with his back toward the home.
Caffarelli said that man was very close to the flames.
“I said, ‘Sir you need to get out of the carport area. Your home is on fire. He kind of looked at me and said, ‘It is?’”
Neighbors rushed out of their homes to help the officer and get the man across the street.
“That’s when I noticed he was in my neighbor’s front yard. He was just really distraught, standing up, laying down, and just freaking out saying his wife was inside, but I knew he didn’t have a wife,” neighbor Melissa Easter said.
We’re told the man tried going back inside the house to get several of this things. He also stated he wanted to move his car from under the carport.
“I asked him for his car keys so we could move the car out of the way. He handed me a set of keys that didn’t work for his car,” Sgt. Caffarelli said.
Firefighters arriving on scene quickly put out the flames. Neighbors say they’re grateful Sgt. Caffarelli just so happened to be passing by.
“Absolutely, it was a blessing. Without him I don’t think the man would have left.” Easter said.
“I don’t look at it is as saving a life. I’m just doing my job,” Caffarelli said.
That man is now recovering in the hospital with burns to his arm, hand and back.
We’re told he was flow to the burn unit at Tampa General Hospital.