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Aberdeen firefighter falls through floor of burning home, rescued in minutes

Contact Reporterecompton@baltsun.com

A mayday call went out at 4:27 a.m. Monday. An Aberdeen volunteer firefighter was in trouble — he had fallen through the floor while searching for occupants of a home on North Stepney Road.

Two minutes later, he and the firefighter who held onto him after he fell were rescued by other firefighters.

“It’s a life-altering event for both of them. We don’t typically have those, we don’t want to have those,” Aberdeen Fire Department Chief Steve Hinch, who was on the call, said Monday afternoon. “It was life altering for me.”

About 40 firefighters from Aberdeen and five other fire companies responded to the fire around 2:50 a.m. Monday in the rancher style single family home in the 1300 block of North Stepney that was reported by a passing motorist.

It used to be an assisted living facility and when personnel arrived, the fire was through the roof, Hinch said.

The roof had already collapsed, he said, and he was worried about the structural integrity of the rest of the house.

Not knowing if anyone was inside, crews searched the home three times until the state fire marshal arrived and confirmed no one was inside the home.

One of those three-man crews was on the first floor of the home, sounding the floor, when one of them — Assistant Chief Joshua Montague, a career firefighter for Baltimore County, fell through the floor and into the basement, Hinch said.

Firefighter Rebecca Budnick was behind Montague and grabbed him, and she held onto him until the Rapid Intervention Team arrived. Within two minutes of the mayday call, they got both firefighters out of the house through an exit in the basement.

“They were fairly quick in getting to him,” Hinch said.

Neither firefighter suffered serious injuries, but both were evaluated by EMS on the scene.

Montague and Budnick could not be reached for comment.

The man who fell was probably more mad at himself for allowing it to happen, Hinch said, but added it couldn’t be avoided.

“It’s nothing he did, it’s the nature of the beast,” he said. “It’s something we practice, practice, practice. You can be doing everything right and it will still happen.”

Luckily, he said, enough crews from Aberdeen Proving Ground Fire Department, Susquehanna Hose Company and Perryville, Level and Abingdon volunteer fire companies were on-hand and operated the mayday “very well.”

The fire was gotten under control in about 90 minutes by 40 firefighters, according to the fire marshal.

The house, which is outside Aberdeen city limits, is owned by Edwin C. Colby Sr. and was occupied by members of his family, who moved in after they stopped operating the assisted living facility.

The house is being renovated, however, and Hinch said the work that was done Sunday necessitated that five residents of the home stay in a hotel Sunday night.

Three dogs, two cats and one guinea pig died in the fire, which caused an estimated $275,000 damage to the home and $75,000 damage to the contents, according to a notice of investigation from the fire marshal’s office.

The fire started inside the home; the cause is under investigation, the fire marshal said.

Sunday afternoon fire

Just 12 hours earlier, just before 3 p.m. Sunday, Aberdeen firefighters responded to a blaze in the 700 block of Gilbert Road, according to a notice of investigation from the fire marshal’s office.

It took about 25 firefighters 45 minutes to control the blaze, which started in the chimney and was caused by improper burning in the fireplace, the fire marshal said.

The fire caused about $25,000 damage to the two-story home owned by Justin Perusek.

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