Prince George’s County fire/EMS officials say a group of electrical workers charged to the rescue in an Upper Marlboro house fire, extinguishing a kitchen fire and incidentally saving a 3-year-old child’s life.
Around 9 a.m. Oct. 17, a Pepco crew of three line technicians arrived at the 2600 block of Ritchie-Marlboro Road in Upper Marlboro for scheduled utility work to a two-story home undergoing renovations for an expansion.
A mother had left the home to walk her older children down their long driveway to a bus stop on Ritchie-Marlboro Road while the Pepco crew was working there, said fire/EMS department spokesman Mark Brady.
While she was away, the crew noticed a fire in the first-floor kitchen and crew members entered the home and yelled to see if anyone was still inside, said Brady.
Pepco line technician Ryan Callahan, 19, said he took a fire extinguisher from the work truck inside the home and began putting out the fire. However, he said the fire continued reigniting due to a propane leak from the kitchen stove so he went to the back of the house and shut off the gas to stop the fire.
“Flames covered up the whole kitchen,” he said.
Callahan, of Calvert County, said he had no idea anyone was in the home at the time until the mother came running back screaming, “My son’s in there!”
He said he picked up the extinguisher and followed her into the home, but got lost within the walls of smoke while the mother was able to quickly navigate to her son and pull him out of the house.
While Callahan was fighting the fire with Donny Pfeifer, the second line technician, a third crew member, Sean Cecil, called 911 and went to the end of the street to flag down responding firefighters who entered the home to ensure the blaze was knocked out.
“It was definitely a different feeling. This was my first time in a fire,” said Callahan, adding he had been with Pepco for nearly a year. “I basically acted off of instinct. It’s not like I was trained to go into a house fire.”
Brady said it could have been a very different outcome for the toddler if it wasn’t for the bravery and quick-thinking of the Pepco workers.
“Due to their quick actions in knocking down the fire, they eliminated the spread of fire and most importantly also, they stopped the billowing toxic smoke from getting to where the toddler was sleeping,” he said.
While the Pepco crew is being commended, Callahan said the mother is the true hero of the day.
“I think everybody on the crew all acted the right way. Nobody panicked, everyone did their job,” he said. “But if anybody is a hero today, it would be boy’s mother. She ran right past us to get her son out. If anybody is credited, it’s her.”
Brady said the cause of the fire was accidental and appears to have started in the trash compactor located in a kitchen cabinet.
“What ignited the fire is unclear at this point, but there was no electricity to the house at the time,” he said.
Myra Oppel, a Pepco spokeswoman, said the crew had been running new utility lines to the home and installing new poles due to home renovations and said Pepco commends the swift actions from the technicians.