Tonawanda City teen receives state's highest civilian award for alerting neighbor of house fire

Posted at 6:06 PM, May 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-31 20:58:46-04

18-year-old Cassandra Butzer, of the City of Tonawanda, received the state’s highest civilian honor Wednesday for her heroic actions on May 10th.

Fire damage still visible at 42 Elmwood Park North in the City of Tonawanda is almost hard to believe for Butzer. The teen was first to spot the fire on her way home from dance practice back on May 10th.

“I tried finding a hose so I could get rid of it but by that time it blew up so much that I had to bang on the door to make sure he was out of the house,” she explained. “I was sitting at my dining room table, working on my computer. I had no idea anything was going on outside,” said Dennis Alviti. Finally, Alviti answered the door. The 68 year old was able to get out safely. 

The fire was contained to the porch thanks to Cassandra’s quick action. Fire investigators believe a bird's nest caught fire from the porch light.  

Cassandra said she was driving slower that night while reflecting on something her dance teacher had said. “She said I need to be thankful for what I have and just be happy. It was just weird I was coming home from dance after she told be that and I'm just so blessed that I was here to make sure he was okay.”

And there's something else interesting in all of this. Cassandra grew up in Elmwood Park, and said she knows almost all of her neighbors. Not Dennis though, at least not until that day. And now she said she considers him a friend. “I’m surprised I never met them. They're so awesome. Like, I love them. They're really awesome people.”

Senator Chris Jacobs honored Butzer with the Liberty Medal in front of her classmates at Tonwanda High School. The medal required the N.Y.S. Senate to pass a Resolution on the Senate floor in Albany. Jacobs said the medals are rare and only given for brave and noble acts.

Cassandra's dad, Gene Butzer said he couldn't be more proud. “She's all by herself, driving home, late at night...she could have just kept driving by but she stopped to help somebody out,” he explained.

“A few more minutes and it could've been a lot worse. I'll be forever indebted to her,” Alviti said.

“I feel like anybody would have done it,” Butzer concluded.