Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
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Monday, June 17, 2013
Shunning praise, Lower Southampton man hails his kids, firefighters
Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Tom Tacconelli ran into this home and saved 2 neighbors
He ran into a burning home to save two neighbors, but what Tom Tacconelli wants to emphasize is the heroic role that his 8- and 10-year-old kids had in the Christmas Day rescue.
While outside during the late morning of Dec. 25, the Lower Southampton man smelled something strange. The odor wasn’t like smoke from a chimney or wood stove, he said, it was something less pleasant.
He, along with his son and daughter, went to investigate. Soon Tacconelli saw smoke rising from the shingles of his neighbor’s roof. As he ran into the burning house, he yelled for his kids to run to their Dalton Road home and call 911.
That is exactly what they did.
“They did a great job when it came to reacting in a time of need, and they did what they were taught,” he said. “For as scared as I was, I can only imagine how fearful they were. But they held it together.”
Firefighters at Christmas Day 2012 fire
While his children notified police and firefighters, who responded in minutes, Tacconelli kicked down the front door and pulled out an injured woman who was in the living room.
He then returned to the house to try to rescue an elderly man on the second floor, but smoke and fire pushed him back. So he filled trashcan lids with water and tried to extinguish the fire.
When first responders arrived, Tacconelli — covered in soot — simply returned home and let firefighters and police take command. They rescued the man on the second floor and put out the fire.
The woman was severely injured but survived. The man clung to life for five months before recently succumbing to his injuries. The fire was caused when an oxygen tank exploded while a resident was smoking a cigarette. A flash fire followed.
Looking back, Tacconelli believes what he did wasn’t heroic. It was a split-second decision on his part. He doesn’t like talking about the fire, and he hasn’t, except with some family.
Tacconelli says his role that day was small. He insists on heaping credit on who he called the real heroes — the volunteer firefighters and police officers who risked their lives that day. “They were great,” he said.
Lower Southampton wanted to recognize Tacconelli along with the volunteer firefighters for his efforts that day, but he wouldn’t hear of it. That bothered his longtime friend and neighbor, Sam Pozzuolo.
“To me, I’m honored to know the man,” Pozzuolo said.
So he submitted Tacconelli’s name for the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania annual Good Samaritan Hero Award without telling his friend. So when the Red Cross notified Tacconelli about the honor, he initially refused it, said Jane Ward, the Bucks County liaison to the Red Cross chapter.
Pozzuolo had to talk him into accepting the recognition.
“When I did talk him into it, he said, ‘I want my kids to come up too because they called 911. If they hadn’t done that (firefighters) wouldn’t have gotten here so soon.’ ”
So when Tacconelli accepts his award Thursday morning as one of eight Bucks County residents honored as “Real Heroes,” his kids will be beside him.
“It’s not about recognition, it’s about doing the right thing,” Tacconelli said. “Any person in that neighborhood would have done the same thing in a heartbeat.”
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email: jciavaglia@phillyBurbs.com; Twitter: @jociavaglia