As she was preparing dinner with her cousin and helper on the first floor of her two-storey house, Dr Sharon Ong Gek Kim heard someone pounding on her door.
It was her neighbour, with fire extinguisher in hand. He had seen smoke through the window at the back of Dr Ong’s semi-detached house on Nim Road, which is off Seletar Road.
The neighbour had also alerted the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
As Dr Ong, her two children, and her cousin bolted from the burning house, her Indonesian helper rushed upstairs to get Dr Ong’s dad who was in his room.
Dr Ong’s husband was not home at the time.
The helper was able to evacuate the 86-year-old from the house before he suffered from smoke inhalation.
Dr Ong, 52, then realised her aunt, Madam Tay Bee Neo, also 86, was in the second- storey bathroom. The bathroom is directly opposite Dr Ong’s room, where the fire started.
Madam Tay, who has dementia, wondered why the house was so dark when she stepped out of the bathroom.
By then Dr Ong had rushed back into the house and scurried up the stairs to save her aunt. Choking on the smoke as her eyes smarted, Dr Ong shouted desperately for her aunt to get out of the house.
After there was no response from Madam Tay, Dr Ong joined her family who were standing in front of the house.
Staring at her home engulfed in flames, Dr Ong could not help but wonder if this was how it would end for Madam Tay.
Sergeant Tan Wei Jie, Sergeant Choong K-Ron, and Special Constable (SC) Muhammad Amru from the Serangoon Neighbourhood Police Centre were the first to arrive at the scene at around 6.10pm.
SC Amru controlled the crowd which had gathered around the house while Sgt Tan and Sgt Choong rushed into the house.
The two immediately had difficulty breathing and retreated to the staircase landing.
Sgt Choong recalled his training and began leopard crawling to avoid the smoke which was clinging to the ceiling.
Sgt Choong and Sgt Tan said they saw Madam Tay’s feet below the smoke.
They crawled on the floor over to the corner where she was standing, and together helped her out of the building.
Dr Ong said: “It means the world to us that they saved the most precious person to us. It might have been a tragedy.
“I am grateful for the trainers and parents who raised such phenomenal sons dedicated to protecting the nation.”
On Tuesday (May 10), Sgt Tan, Sgt Choong, and SC Amru received SCDF Community Lifesavers awards.
Colonel Lim Beng Hui, commander of the 3rd SCDF Division, who presented the award, said “their act of bravery in that crucial moment is commendable and demonstrates the spirit of a Home Team Officer”.
Sgt Tan said that, despite being trained as a police officer rather than a firefighter, it was his mission as a police officer to protect lives and property.
“I would rather do something than regret doing nothing,” he added.