Pittsburgh Apprentices Rescue Seniors from Major Blaze


June 28, 2013

Fast-thinking IBEW apprentices helped stopped a fire at this Pittsburgh-area nursing home from becoming a huge tragedy.

Pittsburgh Local 5 members are being credited with saving dozens of local senior citizens from a fire that tore through a nursing home June 25.

Community College of Allegheny County instructor Tammy Miller was teaching a class of 24 IBEW members when some of the students spotted trouble at the senior living facility next door.

“We were on break and some of students were standing outside when they noticed smoke coming from the neighboring building,” Miller said. “I then said ‘oh my God, that’s a nursing home’ and they made off like a swarm of bees for the building.”

The fire had started on the roof, so no alarms or sprinklers were set off. Most of the residents were not even aware there was a fire.

The IBEW members immediately ran into the building to assist the center’s overwhelmed staff in evacuating everyone to safety.

“They were running down halls, knocking on doors to make sure everyone was out,” said Miller.

Residents unable to walk on their own were carried outside.

“Some helped people out, some people got oxygen tanks out and we got everyone out and across the street,” IBEW student Jaimee Cancolina told the Centre Daily newspaper

In addition to clearing the building, the Local 5 members helped keep everyone calm and orderly until rescue personnel appeared.

“There was one woman who didn’t want to leave until she found her shoes, but they talked with her calmly and got her outside in time,” Miller says.

There were no injuries to the approximately 60 residents or staff, all of whom were successfully evacuated.

Miller says there is no question that without the efforts of her students, the fire could have been a major tragedy.

“This was a fast-moving fire and no one inside even knew it was happening,” she says. “Without these heroes, the papers would have a very different headline.”

The students are enrolled in Miller’s communication class to meet Local 5’s requirement that they pass enough college-level courses to get an associate degree by the time they graduate.

Click here to watch local news coverage of the rescue.