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Ozone Park hero deliciously rewarded for saving neighbor

After rescuing three of his neighbors, including an elderly woman and two young boys, from their burning Ozone Park home, Edward Clas took advantage of the latest perk last week to come his way since his heroic effort: a free meal for his family at the Fresh Meadows Applebee’s and a plaque honoring him at the neighborhood restaurant.

“I did what I had to do,” said Clas, 51, of saving his neighbors April 14.

A 15-year veteran of the city Corrections Department, where he is a mechanic, Clas was at home that afternoon when his daughter, Kendall, 15, smelled smoke emanating from a burning home across the street and heard her neighbors screaming.

“I didn’t even know this house was burning,” Clas said. “Everyone keeps calling me the hero, but [Kendall’s] the hero.”

Clas said he rescued the two boys first, followed by their grandmother, who was upstairs and trying to recover items from a closet when he told her she had to get out of the burning house.

“I only took one breath” during the rescue, he said. “I tried to hold my breath as long as I could.”

Clas estimated he was in the home for no more than a minute while´╗┐ making the rescues.

The Fresh Meadows Applebee’s on 188th Street honored Clas with its Local Hero Award.

The Ozone Park resident said he and his family frequent the Applebee’s about twice a month.

Clas and his family were treated to free meals by the establishment.

The 51-year-old said after his act of heroism, he has met Mayor Michael Bloomberg and thrown the first pitch at a Mets game at Citi Field.

“It’s a very nice thing,” Clas said of his latest honor. “I appreciate it. It’s something I didn’t expect.”

Danny Jimenez, general manager of the Applebee’s, said the company’s vice president of marketing made the decision to honor Clas.

“It’s an unbelievable thing,” Jimenez said of the rescues. “For a regular person, not even a fireman, to jump into a burning building, it’s courageous. It’s unbelievable.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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