Jeffrey Tanner

On Nov. 9, 2021, Cynthia Chambery, 67, was in a bedroom of her one-story house in Lima, New York, when a fire broke out in the basement. Her husband told police he smelled smoke in the garage and exited. Neighbor Jeffrey Tanner, 48, a technical solution manager, was outside his home when he saw smoke coming from Chambery’s residence. Tanner drove to the scene and saw flames in the home’s garage immediately. Concluding there was no safe way to enter the residence, with heavy smoke and floor-to-ceiling flames inside, Tanner suggested using his tractor and a sledgehammer to break through the bedroom wall from the outside and then rushed home to get the tools. He rammed the front end of his tractor into the exterior wall several times and then used the sledgehammer to break the interior wall, creating a hole about 3 feet wide. A state police fire investigator said the basement, below the bedroom, was likely on fire when Tanner entered the home; the heat was blistering. Moving furniture aside, Tanner crawled into the room and found Chambery, unconscious with her upper body hanging off her bed. Tanner grasped her arm to pull her from the bed. Pulling her by her clothes, he crawled with her, inches at a time, toward the opening until they made it outside. A state trooper who had arrived helped Tanner move Chambery a safe distance from the house. The trooper performed CPR until an ambulance arrived, where she was taken to a hospital, and later died from smoke inhalation. Tanner sustained burns to his arm and was left with scarring.

The area of the bedroom, which collapsed after Carnegie Hero Jeffrey Tanner removed Cynthia A. Chambery from the burning structure on Nov. 9, 2021. Photo courtesy of New York State Police.