Rookie cop who saved 92-year-old from fire: ‘We had a job to do’
NORTH PLAINFIELD - By all accounts, 23-year-old Officer Jordan Rogers is a hero, but if you ask him about the time he saved a 92-year-old man from a burning apartment building, he'll tell you it was actually a team effort.
Rogers — this week’s honoree for #BlueFriday, host Bill Spadea’s weekly effort to recognize cops who go above and beyond the call of duty — was actually at police headquarters doing paperwork when the Regency Village apartment complex caught fire.
"I was actually writing a report back at headquarters and there was a call that came over the radio about the smoke," Rogers said.
He then raced to the apartment building with another officer. Rogers said when they arrived, the scene was far worse than what he anticipated.
“There was just so much smoke coming out," said Rogers, who just joined the North Plainfield Police Department on Feb. 29 of this year.
The officers went into the building "a couple of times," but the heavy smoke made it difficult to see or breathe so they exited a couple of times to catch their breath. On his last trip into the building, which was becoming engulfed in flames and filled with smoke, he discovered an elderly man who appeared to be having trouble breathing.
"He was moving slow and was halfway down the stairs," Rogers said, but when he realized the man was unable to continue, he picked him up and carried him out of the building.
Once he pulled the man to safety and turned him over to emergency medical workers, Rogers and fellow officers assisted other first responders in evacuating the rest of the building.
Ultimately, the blaze killed two residents at the Regency Village apartment complex, but the officer's efforts prevented a third fatality, according to Police Chief William Parenti.
Rogers said as he raced into the burning building, his primary thought was making sure all of the residents made it out of the dwelling.
“You kind of go into auto pilot, your adrenaline is high, but your training takes over," Rogers said. "We had a job to do.”
Despite his actions, Rogers said he was just doing his job and any officer would've responded in the same way had they seen the elderly man struggling to breathe.
"Any of them would have done the same thing," he said of his fellow officers. "I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them."
The police chief said the elderly man Rogers saved is doing well. The man's name has not been released.
In fact, this isn't the first time Rogers has responded to a fire scene and assisted a resident. During his police field training, he and other officers learned of a woman who was asleep in her house when it caught fire, so they woke her and got her out of the house.
Rogers, who was raised in North Plainfield and went through the local school system, initially wanted to be a physical therapist. He liked the idea of helping athletes rehabilitate, but what he really wanted was a chance to demonstrate his leadership abilities. By the time he got to high school, Rogers said his focus changed and he decided police work was his calling. Despite the recent nationwide incidents of violence among police and the public and the challenges faced by law enforcement, Rogers said he still believes he made the right choice.
The rookie police officer also said he believes North Plainfield police routinely strive to work with the town to protect residents and form positive relationships within the community.
“We’re doing the best we can," Rogers said.
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Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.