February 2, 2016 Mahwa, N.J. 9 year old Sofya Doroshenko found herself alone in a three story condo that had caught fire. Although she had tried to escape, the fire had blocked off any path to safety. The brave little girl remained calm at her balcony. The police officers were first on the scene and immediately rushed inside the burning building to knock on doors and help to evacuate residents. It was not until the blaze forced them back outside that they spotted the 9-year-old girl in a pink shirt frantically waving from the balcony.
One bystander who saw the blaze noticed the girl standing on her balcony. She had been forced out by flames and smoke. One bystander said “I don’t know how she didn’t catch on fire.”
The 24 unit 3 floor building had some units unoccupied but many were ablaze when first responders arrived. Lt. Jeffrey Dino saw the little girl standing at her balcony and realized that there was no way to get to her and no way that she could escape other than to jump into the arms of Officers waiting to catch her.
The lieutenant, working with Sgt. Brendan Mullin and Officer Thomas Solimano, convinced the girl to jump to them. “She was obviously stuck,” the lieutenant added. “We were not going to be able to get to her. We gave her some instructions to climb over the side of the railing and jump to us.”
“She is A brave little girl,” Lt. Dino said. “She deserves tremendous amount of credit for being able to follow instructions, showing no fear and putting her faith in us to catch her.”
The Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet who had also responded to the fire witnessed Sofya jumping to the Officers arms from the great height and said “That little girl jumped into the arms of angels, and those three angels will be remembered by our community for a long, long time.”
Police and firefighters went around knocking on doors, making sure everyone was evacuated. Eight dogs were also rescued from the building. There were no reports of injuries, Laforet said.
Sofya’s mother, Yulia Doroshenko, repeatedly expressed her gratitude to the police officers who saved her little girl’s life.
“I want to thank them. I didn’t believe this could happen, but it happened, and thank you for saving my child,” said Yulia Doroshenko. “She’s very brave but she’s also in stress.”
Sofya was also interviewed and although she acted with great courage during the harrowing event she says she was naturally scared but added “I didn’t know what to do and I just listened to them,” (The Police) Sofya said. “I just jumped because it was no chance.”
“I’m still feeling that I’ve fallen from my balcony,” Sofya said. “I’m happy that they got me.”
The fire started in an elderly woman’s third-floor unit while she was cooking and then quickly spread to the roof, according to Mahwah fire officials. Sofya suffered only a few scrapes during her daring escape from the intense blaze.
All Twenty-four units were declared inhabitable after the blaze. Families are staying in hotels until the units have been cleaned, Human Services Coordinator Dot McDonough told Daily Voice.
Mahwah’s human services department and the Ramapo Reformed Church ask that people bring gift cards to:
- Society Hill Village 2 Offices: 880 Juniper Way, Mahwah
- Mahwah Human Services Department: 475 Corporate Drive, Mahwah
- Ramapo Reformed Church: 100 Island Road, Mahwah
- Clothing, furniture and other donations will soon be accepted by the church.