Monday, December 11, 2017

We Energies employee rescues neighbors from house fire

On the night of Saturday, Dec. 2, We Energies employee Chris Burbey was driving home from a call in Racine. As a natural gas fitter, Burbey works with piping and appliances, ensuring the safety of customers’ homes and communities. He was not expecting any more work that night – much less a rescue operation.

As Burbey turned the corner to his subdivision, he noticed a fire in his neighbor’s backyard. It looked small, possibly contained. But to him, the risk was clear.

Chris Burbey (left) with Patty, Jamie (daughter) and Brett Filkins.
“I made a quick decision. That’s not a bonfire, that’s a house fire,” Burbey said.

He pulled over the car and jumped into action. With his company wrench and fire extinguisher in hand, he ran to shut off the flow of natural gas at the meter. He then pounded on the front door.

“Your house is on fire,” he shouted. “This is your neighbor and also the gas company. Get out!”

The residents, Brett and Patty Filkins, were asleep and unaware of the fire, which had begun at their natural gas grill and was crawling up the back of their house. When Burbey’s shouts woke them, the flames had just reached their bedroom deck.

Once they had safely left the house, Patty called 911 and Brett helped Burbey extinguish the fire. After the danger had passed, Burbey stayed with the couple until 2 a.m. to help in any way he could – speaking with the fire department, checking the furnace and water heater, and giving moral support.

“It was a traumatic event, and he went above and beyond to help us,” Patty said. “Without him, my husband and I might not be here today.”

Earlier that night, the Filkinses had cooked a pizza on the grill and accidentally left the burner on low. This small flame could have become a much more serious blaze. Investigating the scene, firefighters reported that the fire only remained outside the house due to the second pane on the kitchen window – a pane close to breaking when Burbey arrived.

“The stars and moon all aligned. It could have been a very different outcome,” Burbey said.

His quick thinking, skill and bold action made all the difference to the Filkinses. He hopes others can learn from the incident and make sure their homes and families are safe.

“Double-check the burner position,” he said. “We’re all human, and it’s easy to overlook when you’re getting pulled from all directions.”

Visit our website for more information on natural gas safety. If you smell natural gas or have a natural gas emergency, leave the building immediately and call our 24/7 emergency line at 800-261-5325 from another location.


Rick Rouse said...

As a natural gas fitter, Chris Burbey is also a first responder to all natural gas emergency events, and the response cycle is 24/7. Fitters operate alone and back up help can take time. Their sense of awareness has to be keen to make split second decisions to keep people safe. Kudos to those men and women on the front lines of Gas Operations.
Rick Rouse
Retired We Energies 2016

Rick Rouse said...

As a natural gas fitter, Chris belongs to a dedicated and skilled group of men and women who work 24/7 to respond to all gas trouble calls, from a slight gas odor, to no gas, to blowing gas. Their sense of awareness has to be keen to quickly assess the potential for danger, to keep people safe. They are the front line.