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D.C. Air National Guardsman saves elderly woman from house fire

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --

Tech. Sgt. Kelly Downes, a 213th Air Maintenance Squadron Phase Inspector, saved her 91 year-old neighbor from a house fire in Essex, Md., Oct. 16.

Downes received a call from the woman’s daughter, who was away at the time, asking to check on her mother who was smelling smoke in the house.

“I, along with my wife, went over to check on her when we noticed there was smoke coming from her windows,” said Downes.

With the front door locked, Downes entered the home, with the help of her wife, through a window that was fortunately left unlocked.

“I had punched through the screen and was able to pull it down. My wife gave me a boost to climb through and as soon as I came in, I saw her at the door just screaming for help,” said Downes. “I went to the front and was able to get the bottom lock unlocked and had issues unlocking the top.”

With the house filled with smoke, Downes had issues breathing.

“I had to run back to the window to get a deep breath of fresh air and then was finally able to get the top unlocked, it was one of those heavy doors you had to push your full body weight on… once the door opened you could see flames go up to about knee high in the hall and I was able to walk her safely out.”

Shortly after, Baltimore County police officials arrived, followed by firefighters to extinguish the fire. The fire resulted from a fallen heat lamp used to warm a pet bearded dragon.

The woman was taken to the hospital and is now in better condition. Three police officers were treated for smoke inhalation, officials say.   

The quick action of Downes likely saved the woman’s life.

"All I know at this time is that when they pulled up, they took the initiative to actually get into the front door where the elderly woman was laying, and they pulled her out to safety," Baltimore County Fire Department fire specialist Nicholas Tyson said in a recent interview with WBAL-TV 11.

“Tech. Sgt. Downes represents the best of the Air National Guard and the 113th Wing,” said Col. Keith G. MacDonald, 113th Wing Commander. “Without regard to her personal safety, Downes heroic actions saved the life of one of our community members. I am proud of the selflessness, courage and honor that she displayed and am humbled to serve alongside her in the 113th Wing.”