A Southold Police Officer was recognized as the department’s Officer of the Year Friday for saving the lives of two people from a burning house last fall.
Officer Peter Onufrak was on patrol at about 10 p.m. on Sept. 12 when he noticed a brighter than normal glow coming from a two-story house on Hortons Lane in Southold, according to Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley, who described the rescue at the Southampton Kiwanis Club’s 50th Annual Police Awards ceremony at the Sea Star Ballroom in Riverhead Friday.
“He reacted and quickly made a U-turn and circled back towards the residence when he discovered that the front of the house was fully engaged in fire,” Chief Flatley recalled.
After notifying dispatch and the Southold Fire Department, Officer Onufrank approached the house and saw that there were people inside, so he entered through the back portion of the home and found a man who was not aware that the front of the house had become fully engaged in flames, according to Chief Flatley.
Officer Onufrak helped the man out of the house, but was told the man’s elderly sister was elsewhere in the house.
“At this point, the condition was rapidly deteriorating as the house was filling in with smoke and the fire expanding,” Chief Flatley said. “Officer Onufrak located the homeowner, Margaret Murphy, who was in shock and refused to leave.”
She had to be physically removed to safety outside of the house, he said.
“Due to Officer Onufrak’s keen sense of awareness of his surroundings while on on patrol, and subsequent actions, he is credited with preventing the possible loss of two lives and a potential catastrophic loss of the residents and surrounding houses,” the chief said.
Officer Onufrak is an 18-year member of the Southold Police Department, and prior to that he served in the New York Police Department for two years, the Ponce Inlet department in Florida for five years and the City of Cocoa department in Florida for two years.