Inquirer staff writer Sam Wood reports:

A South Jersey police officer is being lauded as a hero this morning after rescuing a wheelchair-bound woman from her burning home.

Officer Andrew Cooke was on patrol in Mount Holly shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday when he spotted flames raging at a house on the 600 block of Smith Lane.

"The garage was fully engulfed," said Chief Steven Martin. "He jumped from his cruiser, ran up to the house.

Inside 87-year-old Emma Mecum had been watching television, unaware her home was ablaze.

She didn't hear Cooke pounding at the door, Martin said.

"When he didn't get a response, he forced entry," Martin said.

Cooke's sudden appearance startled Mecum.

With no time to waste, Cooke wheeled her out to the curb, called for the fire department, and reentered the smoke-filled house to make certain there were no other people inside. The woman's grandson is a frequent visitor, Martin said.

After clearing the house, Cooke returned to the woman's side as the blaze spread from the garage to the rest of the home.

"It's a good thing he got there when he did," Martin said. "She might not have been able to make it out."

Firefighters arrived in minutes and had the blaze under control by 11:34 p.m., a Burlington County dispatcher said.

No one was injured and Mecum is now staying with relatives, Martin said.

Cooke, 38, a 13-year veteran assigned to the patrol division. Martin said he will nominate the officer for a lifesaving award.

Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or at samwood@phillynews.com

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