AEP Texas Service Mechanic Roman Tambunga was maneuvering the bucket truck out of the Ozona neighborhood when he saw smoke coming out of a home. His response helped ensure that the resident and his pets safely exited the home before it was engulfed in flames. He also helped the volunteer fire department fight the blaze.
“I was trimming trees in the neighborhood about three that afternoon,” Tambunga said. “Once finished, I was about to drive my bucket truck down the street and park it to allow room to move the limbs to the curb for pickup by the country. As I drove to turn around, I noticed black smoke coming out of a house. I proceeded around the block to the front of the home, which took about 30 seconds. I parked; ran to the front door and started yelling and banging on the door.”
Tambunga, an AEP Texas employee for the past three years, lives in Ozona and knew the two brothers who lived in the house. After banging on the door and yelling for what seemed like a very long minute and a half or two, one of the residents opened the door holding a puppy.
“I said, ‘Let’s get out.’ I could tell that he was panicking. He yelled that he still had other pets inside. I called to the other pets, and they ran out the door. I helped get him and the puppy out. Once he and the pets were at a safe distance, I saw that the blaze had become extremely large and it appeared that the house next door was going to catch fire too. The wind was really blowing.”
Knowing that the volunteer fire department was going to need the electricity disconnected, Tambunga ran to bucket truck and removed the Extendo telescoping pole to cut the power at the transformer. Upon arrival, the local fire fighters asked bystanders for help fighting the blaze.
“The fire chief asked if I could help with the hose,” he said. “I took the fire hose and worked if for it a good little while. That was the first time that I’ve run a fire hose. I’ve never been in front of that much smoke. The wind kept shifting, and the smoke kept blowing into our faces. I am pretty sure I got enough smoke to last me all year.”
Ultimately, the local fire department was joined by the Sonora and Big Lake volunteer fire departments. The fire burned the first home to the ground and damaged two other homes. Once the fire had died down, Tambunga restored power to the neighborhood.
“I am pretty sure I got enough smoke to last me all year,” he said. “I had to leave my clothes outside that night. I can still smell the smoke.”
San Angelo Manager of Distribution Systems Fred Hernandez praised Tambunga for his actions. “We’re just lucky to have people like Roman in our small towns,” he said. “It makes a difference.”