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‘This is what we do’: 5 police officers rush into burning building, carry out man in wheelchair

The building was destroyed, but the officers’ quick thinking saved a man’s life


Bianchi’s Pizza Pad in Solvay, New York, was destroyed in a blaze Monday night.


By Rylee Kirk

SOLVAY, N.Y, — Geddes Police Sgt. Michael Borell was the first on the scene of a fire in a long-time Solvay pizza shop Monday night.

He said he heard a woman yelling that her husband was stuck in an apartment over the burning Bianchi’s Pizza Pad on Milton Avenue.

“She was screaming and crying in the street that her husband was upstairs,” Borell said

He went up the stairs to the apartment and found the man in his wheelchair. The man said he couldn’t walk and didn’t want to leave his cats behind.

Borell, who has 15 years as a police officer, would need help to get the man out safely.

Solvay Officer Joseph Hardy parked his patrol car to block off the street and ran towards the building.
He had heard on dispatch calls at about 8 p.m. that there was a man in a wheelchair inside and possibly children.

The smoke was flooding into the street, Hardy said. The 21-year-old has only been on the job five months and had never been to a building fire.

Three other officers arrived at the scene from the Geddes Police Department: Adam Lustrinelli, Taylor Potter and Ryan Legacy, said John Fall, Geddes police chief.

All officers went up the stairs and into the smoke-filled apartment.

“I just kind of ran in there,” Hardy said. “There was smoke but I didn’t stop to think about downstairs being on fire.”

Borell wheeled the man to the stairs. Hardy grabbed one shoulder and another officer grabbed the man’s other shoulder, Hardy said. Another officer grabbed the man’s feet and the three carried the man down the stairs to the wife’s car, Hardy said.

By this point, the street was flooded with smoke and it was hard to see, Hardy said. The wife told Hardy there were no children in the building, he said.

Borell was still in the building looking around the apartment for the couple’s cats but he couldn’t find them. Borell left the apartment and found the husband and wife to check on them.

Both Hardy and Borell said that once the man was out they felt relieved.

Hardy said that saving the man’s life still hasn’t set in for him. For Borell, he said it sank in when he got home.

Despite this being the first time he’s run into a burning building, Borell called this a normal day.

“This is what we do,” he said.

The fire damaged the pizzeria and the second-floor bathroom and there was some water and smoke damage to the basement and second floor, according to the Solvay Fire Department.

The family-owned restaurant at 2623 Milton Ave. has been in business for 53 years.

“It is with sadness, beyond words, that we share with you that last night the pizza shop caught on fire and was destroyed,” Bianchi’s Pizza Pad wrote on Facebook. “Our hearts are broken and shattered in a million pieces.”

While the officers were able to get the man out the heavy damage to the pizzeria saddens Borell.

“I’d been to that pizza shop probably 100 times in my life,” he said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help rebuild Bianchi’s Pizza Pad.


Geddes Police Sgt. Michael Borell and Solvay Police Officers Adam Lustrinelli, Taylor Potter, Ryan Legacy and Joseph Hardy are honored at a town board meeting on January 12, 2022, for their life-saving actions on Dec. 20, 2021, in Solvay, N.Y.

Town of Geddes Police Department

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