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Fayette EMS help man, dog out of home on fire

Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 6:32 p.m.

A stroke of luck, instinct, training and common sense was enough for two Fayette EMS employees to come to the rescue of a Masontown man, getting him safely away from a fire on the man's back deck.

Between 7 and 8 a.m. Wednesday, EMT Annie King of Perryopolis and paramedic Gabe Nalepka of McClellandtown were on standby at Fayette EMS's German/Masontown station.

The rescue workers were preparing to return to their station in Republic. They opened the bay doors to the German/Masontown station and noticed smoke coming from a house across the street.

Nalepka called Fayette 911 while King ran across the street. The back porch of the home was on fire.

“The structure was still safe for us to be on the porch,” King said.

She began pounding on the door. No response.

“It felt like a long time,” she said.

King and Nalepka finally got the attention of the man, who lives with his dog.

“He had no idea it was happening,” King said. “He was shaken up, but unharmed.”

The Fayette EMS employees helped the man and his dog across the street to the station to keep them warm.

The duo then rushed back to the house, grabbed a garden hose from the garage, strung it across the street and started to spray water on the porch fire until they heard the sound of propane hissing.

They backed away as firefighters arrived on the scene and quickly had the fire under control.

“The fire itself never made it inside the house,” King said. “The fire destroyed the back wall and deck, but there was only smoke and water damage inside the house.”

King and Nalepka set up a rehab center at the station to keep the firefighters warm.

“It makes you proud to be a boss,” said Rick Adobato, a director with Fayette EMS. “They went above and beyond what they're supposed to do. They used their heads.”

“They teach us patient safety and removing patients from harm's way,” King said. “We couldn't just stand there.”

Adobato said Nalepka, who couldn't be reached for an interview, is also a firefighter with McClellandtown VFD.

“It was dumb luck we saw the fire right after it started,” King said.

“We save a lot of lives, but this stands out,” Adobato said. “They used their instincts, common sense and training throughout the years. They even took care of the man afterwards. They even used some of their clothes to keep him warm.”

No matter what training and dedication the two showed in the situation, everyone involved cannot ignore the fact that it all started with being in the right place at the right time.

“Everything just came together right,” Adobato said. “Had they not witnessed it, I'm afraid of what could have happened.”

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or

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