Mailman helps evacuate residents from smoke-filled Cheektowaga apartment building

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — A mailman went from delivering letters to possibly saving lives in Cheektowaga.

Kashif Hakim, a National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 3 postal worker, rushed into a smoke-filled apartment building on Slate Creek Drive last month alerting residents to evacuate.

Hakim was delivering mail at the Idylwood Resort Apartments when he saw smoke spewing from building 34. He rushed in without a second thought.

“My dad being a cop and my mom being a nurse, I kind of just sprung into action,” he said. “I was a CNA for a while, so it’s kind of in my blood I guess to help.”

Hakim has been a postal worker for just over seven months, yet he experienced something carriers with more years on the job never have: an active fire at his delivery spot.

“I see a lady struggling to hold a cat and I’m like ‘Hmmm,’ so as I watch the lady go back into the building, I see just smoke come out,” Hakim said. “I’m like ‘Oh, what’s going on?’ and she’s like, ‘It’s a fire and I got two more cats and a bird in there.'”

In a split-second decision, he ran into the building and banged on the doors of 12 different units, telling residents to evacuate.

“As I’m coming back around, one guy was like, ‘Hey, was that you knocking on my door?'” he said. “I’m like ‘yeah’ and he’s like, ‘I appreciate it brother, I was in there sleeping and you might’ve saved my life.'”

Hakim was named the latest NALC Branch 3 Hero by the president of the local NALC chapter, David Grosskopf, Jr. Grosskopf said while letter carriers aren’t trained for those types of situations, he couldn’t be more proud of Hakim.

“We come across sometimes some pretty serious situations and I’m always proud of my men and women that I represent when they go above and beyond out there, not only being a letter carrier, but just being a good citizen and somebody that’s helping out their community for somebody in need,“ Grosskopf said.

News 4 WIVB reached out to local authorities about what caused the fire, but have yet to hear back.

A post on the Buffalo Western New York Letter Carriers’ Facebook page shared Hakim’s heroics, which now has 50 likes and countless comments of praise.

If something like that happens again, he would respond the same way, Hakim said.

“I’m not doing it for pats on the back or anything like that, just doing it cause I would hate to hear that something happened and I was standing right there,” he said. “I’m full of good health to knock on the door and got him out.“

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Dillon Morello is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has been part of the News 4 team since September of 2023. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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