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January 2013

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IBEW Linemen Help Save 3-Year-Old

Last October, Washington D.C., Local 1900 lineman Ryan Callahan and his co-workers were holding an early morning huddle in a quiet Maryland suburb when one of them smelled smoke.

The crew — who worked for the local utility Pepco — found the source: the home of Malebogo Munamunungu, who was waiting for the school bus with her two children at the end of a long driveway.

The group walked around to the back of house, where lineman Donny Pheifer saw smoke pouring out of the first-floor kitchen.

After yelling and knocking on windows to see if anyone was in the house, Callahan grabbed a fire extinguisher from his truck and put out the flames coming from the kitchen, but the fire returned.

"I heard a clicking sound, which made me think it was a gas problem," he says.

While the crew went to shut off the house's propane line, one of the workers warned Munamunungu, who was returning back up her driveway.

The house was enveloped in smoke, but she surprised everyone by rushing inside. The reason for her action soon became clear, as she ran downstairs with her 3-year-old son Asher — who was in his bedroom sleeping when the fire broke out — in her arms.

No one was injured.

"We didn't even know there was anyone still in house," says Callahan, 19, who has been with the utility for just a year. "We called upstairs many times and didn't get a response."

In addition to Callahan and Pheifer, linemen Sean Cecil, Timothy Chick, Eric Tatum, Johnny White and Steve Brown also helped put out the fire.

The remoteness of the neighborhood made it likely that emergency personal could not have reached the fire before it spread to the rest of the house.

According to WRC-TV, Prince George's County Fire officials said that, given the home's rural location, the Pepco crew prevented what could have been a tragedy.

"I think anyone in the same situation would do the same," says Callahan.

The crew's quick thinking and bravery earned them gratitude from members of the county council who honored the linemen with a proclamation.

"What those guys did is just further confirmation about how seriously IBEW members take their jobs and our commitment to serve the public," says Local 1900 Business Manager Jim Griffin. "We are all very proud of them."