Camden cops honored for saving man from fire

Police are crediting Emilio Ortega (center), Officer Jovan Plaza (right) and Officer Frank Laspata with saving a Camden man from a burning building.

Two Camden police officers are being honored after they rushed inside a burning home Saturday to save an injured man.

Police said a fire broke out shortly before 4:30 p.m. on the second floor of a row home on the 800 block of North Eighth Street.

Neighbor Emilio Ortega saw the flames and forced his way inside. He found in an upstairs bathroom resident Wilfredo Ortiz, who was badly burned and unable to walk. Ortega began dragging Ortiz down the stairs, authorities said.

Officers Jovan Plaza and Frank Laspata, who were on patrol in the area, ran inside after seeing smoke pouring from the home and hearing screams for help.

They found Ortiz lying on the steps, unable to move, as Ortega struggled to breathe. The officers together carried Ortiz outside and made sure Ortega escaped safely, according to investigators. 

Police said Ortiz, who suffered burns to nearly two-thirds of his body, remained in critical condition Wednesday at Temple University Hospital.

Plaza and Laspata were named Camden County police officers of the week.

“These were truly heroic actions taken by Officers Plaza and Laspata and by Mr. Ortega,” Camden County Police Chief J. Scott Thomson said in a statement.

“They risked their lives running into a burning building to ensure that Mr. Ortiz made it out alive and our prayers are now with him as he remains hospitalized.”

Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.