Mark Smith

Mark Smith, network services manager, left early for work recently to attend an important meeting, but his priorities soon changed. He rescued 7 of his neighbors in Lisbon, Ohio, from a house fire instead.

"I heard some strange noises, like aluminum tent poles clanking together, coming from my neighbor's house," Mark said. "I didn't see anything until I drove by. I saw an orange glow in the garage. I immediately threw my car in park and ran."

Mark was a volunteer firefighter and EMT in the past. His instincts were right on. He opened his garage door and yelled to his wife to dial 9-1-1. The neighbors' house was on fire.

As Mark ran to the neighbors' front door, something exploded in the garage. The window shattered and a fireball went 30 feet in the air.

Rescuing the neighbors

"I pounded on the door and beat my hand to bloody," Mark said. "I just needed in. I knew somebody was home. I was about to kick in the locked door when my neighbor's mother-in-law answered."

Mark sent her outside and went in to wake the others. The rooms and hallways were filling with smoke.

"I was yelling, 'Get out, there's a fire,'" Mark said. "The youngest child ran out of her bedroom and across the hall to wake her friend who was visiting. I got them to the front door. I then woke up her mom from a dead sleep."

At this point the black smoke was throughout the house – only 3 feet above the floor had breathable air. Charlene Sias barely remembers getting out of the house.

"I just remember thinking, 'What's he doing in my room?'" Charlene said. "I got up and ran through the kitchen and down the steps to my boys."

Charlene's twin boys were asleep in the basement. The 18-year olds didn't want to wake up, but Charlene yelled at them to get up and out of the house.

Mark ran down the hall to get the last neighbor at home, the father-in-law. He was on dialysis and didn't hear the commotion. Mark unhooked him from the medical machines and got him to safety outside.

"If it wasn't for Mark, we would all be dead," Charlene said. "There's no way we would have woken up.”

Another AT&T employee to the rescue

The fire department arrived 3 minutes later. Another AT&T employee, Mark Hall, customer services specialist and Lisbon Volunteer Fire Department captain, was the first responder.

"We got the call that there were still people in the house," Hall said. "As soon as we pulled up, I saw Mark Smith and he told me everyone was out of the house. It was a huge relief."

“I thanked Mark for getting the people out,” Mark Hall said. “What he did was heroic and we're very grateful."

Hall and the firefighters pulled hoses and finally got the fire out.

The fire inspector revealed the probable cause to be a lithium ion battery charging in an electric scooter in the garage. The home had only one functioning smoke detector.