HVAC Technician Helps Family Escape Burning House
Service call turns into rescue mission
Jim Washer, a service technician with One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning in Charlotte, North Carolina, headed to a service call June 6, expecting a routine run. The day ended with people calling him a hero.
Washer was headed to the location in a residential neighborhood when he saw smoke. He turned onto the street to see the source. As he got closer, he saw flames coming out of a fairly large house. No one was standing around the house despite the visible blaze, so he called 911 and pulled into the driveway, where two vehicles were parked.
“I said, ‘I better do something about this,’” Washer said.
He went to the closest door and knocked. No one answered, so he tried another door. A woman answered, unaware of what was happening.
“I tried to be calm and say, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but your house is on fire,’” Washer said.
The woman said her daughter was also at home and the family had three pets. Washer grabbed the family cat, the mother took care of the dog, and the daughter brought out a lizard. Once outside, the woman could see the smoke and flames coming from her house.
“She held her composure, but you could tell she was a little nervous,” Washer said.
He then told the woman and her daughter to back out their vehicles. By now, the fire trucks had arrived. That was good news for the family, but not for the original customer, as Jim’s truck was blocked in. He sent dispatch some pictures of the fire trucks to explain what happened.
“I said, ‘I had to get these people out of this burning house,’” Jim said.
Another tech was dispatched to take care of the original customers. The Charlotte Fire Department reported that the fire was accidental and estimates it cost the owners more than $300,000 in property and content.
Washer travels all over North and South Carolina, handling jobs for One Hour. He’s been with the company for five years. He worked for another HVAC firm before that, but left when it became part of a bigger company. Washer said he wanted a “family-oriented” environment, which One Hour provides while being part of a nationwide franchise.
Washer’s quick thinking brought a fair amount of attention. He appeared on the local news, and neighbors bought him a big cookie that read “Jim, You’re Our Hero.” He told his story at the next tech meeting at work and received recognition from the company.
Washer doesn’t consider himself a hero. He just hopes that if his family were in that circumstance, someone would do the same.
“I was just at the right place at the right time,” Washer said.
Still, no one else took action. The fire department did arrive right way, and Washer said they are the real heroes. He said this stands out so far as the most excitement he ever had on a job.
“I’ve seen some crazy things, but never a burning house,” Jim said. “Just another day in heating and air.”