"As I pulled into the police station, I could see heavy black smoke," Lopez recounted. "I get on the radio and asked the police dispatcher if there was a fire nearby. The dispatcher replied that there wasn't. No one had called it in."
But Lopez could clearly see there was danger just blocks away, and he was determined to find it. He drove his police car toward the thick black smoke and ended up on Montello Street, where he saw a group of people gathered in front of No. 8. Lopez was the only official on scene; the fire department hadn't arrived yet, and his fellow police officers were still on their way, so Lopez took charge.
"As I'm yelling at people to get back, now people are yelling back at me that there are people inside the house," Lopez recalled.
He didn't know how many people were inside or what the conditions would be, but Lopez ran along the side of the home and burst through the side door. "When I end up in the kitchen, and I start looking around, and I go, 'Hello?! Boston Police! Anyone in here?' " No one answered. But when Lopez saw a locked door off the kitchen, he decided he needed to force his way through it to make sure no one was inside.
"The door flies open, and there's a gentleman on the bed," Lopez explained. "I start going, 'Let's go! We gotta go! This house is on fire.' And he's looking at me, startled! He starts gathering belongings, and I said, 'We don't have time for that; we gotta go now!' "
Lopez encountered two more people inside the house who were also reluctant to leave. "Everyone wanted to gather belongings," Lopez said. He got all three people out but didn't have time to check the two floors above.
"We all had to leave the house. It was fully engulfed. There was nothing else we could do at that point," he said.
Lopez later learned that no one else was upstairs, and he had led everyone out of the home before the flames would have trapped them inside. Firefighters soon arrived, and they pushed in to battle back the flames.
His quick actions were all adrenaline and pure instinct, according to Lopez. "I always wondered why firefighters went into a burning building," he said. "Now, I know. It's not something you think about. You just react to the moment."
Lopez had praise for his fellow law enforcement officers: "There are officers around this country who do great work every day and they help people out in many different ways. This is great that we were able to do something and help people out, because people would've lost their lives if we didn't show up."
It was a swift reaction and a big rescue for a veteran Boston officer who now has a flair for firefighting.