A Union Pacific track inspector with an eagle eye for potential track defects recently made the biggest catch of his life – on his way to work, he spotted a house on fire in rural Illinois about a half-mile off the road.
“It was blazing pretty good,” said Mike Brown, Maintenance of Way inspector. “I figured someone else probably reported it, but I pulled over and called 911 just in case. The dispatcher said I was the first one to call and asked if I would make sure everyone evacuated.”
Brown headed toward the burning house in his Union Pacific work truck, passing a few drivers watching from their vehicles.
“When I pulled up, a man with crutches was trying to get out of the house,” Brown said. “I helped him get outside, and he said his wife was still inside. The scariest thing I’ve ever done is look into that door and debate whether I should go in. The Courage to Care took over and I told myself, ‘If you’re going to do this, let’s go.’”
Using the hood from his sweatshirt to partially cover his face, Brown entered the house and called out to the woman.
“I couldn’t see her, but I finally heard her yell back,” he said. “She made it to the doorway, and I picked her up and carried her out to a safe place while we waited for first responders.”
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Brown, an 11-year railroader, attributes his quick action to Union Pacific training, safety briefings and town halls.
“We’re taught to be alert at all times, call 911 before you get yourself into a situation like this and have the Courage to Care to serve your co-workers and community,” he said.
As for what happened next: “I went to work and inspected the main line,” he said. “I’m just happy the couple is OK.”
“A component of our mission is to serve, and how we serve those communities we operate in,” said Chad Rose, general director-Maintenance of Way. “Mike exemplified Courage to Care in his community with his actions.”