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Monroe officers hailed as heroes after saving women, children from fire

MONROE, N.C. — Two rookie Monroe police officers are being called heroes for saving three children from a fire early Tuesday.

Two mothers told Channel 9 they were trapped with their three children inside their home on Lexington Avenue when the first officer pulled up about 2 a.m.

Officer Corey Helms arrived, heavy smoke was coming from the home and he noticed a woman at a bedroom window on the second floor, officials said.

When Stephanie Munoz spotted the officer waving a flashlight, she tossed her keys to him so he could get into the locked house.

"My eyes were just burning. It was really hard to breathe," Munoz said.

Munoz said that when she threw her keys out the window, she was trapped with her 5-month-old son, Albert.

Munoz’s sister and her two daughters -- a 10-month-old and 3-year-old -- were also surrounded by a suffocating cloud of smoke.

Munoz said the fire started in kitchen and it was burning right below their bedrooms. She said she was sterilizing baby bottles on Christmas night and forgot to turn off the stove before she went to sleep. When she woke up a few hours later, it was too late to escape.

"I'm pretty disappointed in myself, to be honest. I just can't believe that I was the one that caused it," Munoz said, choking back tears.

Initially, Helms couldn't get into the house because of the thick smoke, so he and Officer Dylan Cole tried to locate a ladder.

When they couldn't find a ladder, the two officers burst through the door, raced up the stairs and brought the trapped family to safety.

The officers told the family to stay low while they carried the small children down the stairs and out of the home.

Munoz said Helms was the policeman who risked his life to carry her baby to safety.

"I have an almost two-year-old nephew so the whole time I was carrying him I was thinking about my nephew," Helms said.

"He was really sweet. I want to thank him. I feel like if it wasn't for him showing up at that moment, things could've gotten worse," Munoz said.

The Monroe Fire Department put out the fire while the family was checked out by paramedics.

"It could've been a lot worse. I'm just glad that we're all OK and that my son's OK and my niece and my sister and I. We're all OK," Munoz said through tears.

Munoz visited the officers at their police department on Wednesday to thank them.

"If it wasn't for you guys, who knows if him and I and my nieces would be here," Munoz told the officers.

The brave officers still don't think of themselves as heroes so Munoz said she's trying to fix that.

"Don't think that you're not because you are heroes," she said.

They told Channel 9 this really put their training to the test, but it has been an incredibly rewarding experience that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

In a statement, Monroe Police Chief Bryan Gilliard said:

“I am extremely proud of the actions of these two officers. Their decisions to put themselves in a dangerous situation to protect and save the people in that house truly exemplifies all that being a police officer stands for. These situations are not something you come across every day and I am proud that these officers used their training and skills to potentially save five lives.”

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