On May 10 at around 10:10 pm, Cassandra Butzer, a senior at Tonawanda High School, saved the life of Dennis Alviti when she alerted him of a fire in his house. For her bravery and good deed, the high schooler was awarded the New York State Senate’s highest civilian honor, the Liberty Medal. According to the City of Tonawanda Fire Department, 18-year-old Butzer was driving by a home on Elmwood Park North when she noticed flames coming from the house. Butzer immediately parked her car and knocked on Alviti’s door, warning the 68-year-old of the flames. Thanks to Butzer’s intervention, the homeowner safely escaped the fire.
According to Alviti, who was home alone at the time of the incident, he was unaware of the fire because he was up late working on his computer. Only when he heard Butzer at the front door repeatedly ringing the doorbell did he notice smoke emanating from the upstairs window above the front porch. “I’m not sure anyone else would have stopped,” Alviti admitted. “I am forever in her debt.”
A ceremony was held in the Tonawanda High School for Butzer, where State Senator Christopher L. Jacobs honored the teenager with the Liberty Medal, which he stated was a rare gift awarded to individuals who performed an extraordinary act. The medal, conceived in 2000, is reserved for citizens who have displayed especially commendable acts of humanitarianism and courage for the betterment or benefit of their peers. Dennis Alviti and his wife, Rita Alviti, were also in attendance.
On the night of the house fire, Alviti’s wife was at their grandchild’s school concert, but she saw fire trucks pass her on her way back home. “I could have lost my husband,” she said. “Once I saw him there standing with the firemen I didn’t care about the house anymore. He was alright, that’s what counted.”
According to Butzer herself, the teen stays humble, believing her act was that of any ordinary and concerned citizen. Butzer explained to reporters that she first noticed the house fire as it spread throughout the entire front porch, growing bigger at an incredible rate. Even while ringing the doorbell, it was difficult to see because of the smoke billowing throughout the area. By the time Alviti answered the door, Butzer insisted the homeowner had to exit the home immediately, believing there was no time to salvage anything.
Investigators suspect the fire was the result of a bird’s nest built on top of a porch light. The total cost of damage to the Alviti’s residence was last approximated at $20,000. While the experience was rewarding in itself, it also provided Butzer another prospective career choice. Initially, the teenager was planning on becoming a nurse after dancing professionally, having already received admission at the University of Buffalo to study dance. Now, Butzer is adding firefighter to her list of career options.
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