Lifesaving Verizon workers pull company's backside out of the fire

We’ll get to the genuine Verizon heroes in just a minute, I promise, because they are the silver lining in this fiery cloud that continues to hang over the carrier and its employees.

First, early Saturday morning a pickup truck crashes into a Verizon building, both catch fire … and I already know what you’re thinking: angry FiOS customer at the wheel, right? (Think old lady with a hammer in a Comcast office.)

Not so, according to the sheriff’s department in Victorville, California; it’s simply another example of Verizon putting moths to shame when it comes to being attracted to flames. Police say 21-year-old Richard Morretti was speeding when he lost control of the pickup and slammed into the Verizon building, setting fire to both. (Morretti's mom tells a different and exculpatory version of what happened, not that it matters to the 160 Verizon workers brushing embers off their office chairs.)

Last week it was the Verizon Wireless store in Morristown, N.J., that apparently suffered an instance of spontaneous combustion, with the resultant flames not only disrupting phone sales but turning an adjacent 24-hour convenience store into a less-than-24-hour convenience store.

And the week prior, we had 250 Verizon workers fleeing a call center in Huntsville, Ala., after the odor of natural gas sickened some and convinced the rest to extinguish all smoking materials.

Of course, what makes these otherwise unrelated and relatively minor incidents noteworthy on this blog is the fact that most of the time it has been Verizon bringing the fire and gas fumes down upon its customers and their neighbors. Seeing the tables turned may please only those who enjoy their schadenfreude char-broiled, but you'd have to excuse at least those who have felt directly the pain that is a FiOS installation gone awry.

On the other hand, everyone should be thankful that there is good news -- spectacularly good news -- to be found amid these otherwise dismal tales of Verizon and fire.

In Pittsburgh, a trio of men -- one a volunteer firefighter, the other two Verizon employees John Bladel and Regis Kessler -- are being credited with saving the life of a disabled woman last week by carrying her from a burning home. "I was happy those guys pitched in," says firefighter/postal worker Bill Silay. "I knew what I was facing, but they had no idea what they were getting into."

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts …

"They probably saved their lives," an Abington fire official says of a group of utility workers, including Verizon employees, who rushed to alert and evacuate residents of home that had caught fire while the men worked to repair a nearby pole.

And, finally, while their feat involved no fire, I would be remiss not to mention Dennis and Linda Larsen -- he a Verizon special services technician, she a Verizon retiree -- who pulled their van to the side of a deserted highway at 1 a.m. to help a distressed man and his mother who had suffered a heart attack. Their story is one of those that make you pause and ask, "What would I have done?"

"If Mr. Larsen hadn't stopped, that lady wouldn't have survived," says police officer Jerry Shuart, who played a major role in the rescue himself.

Of course, I'm not seriously suggesting that there is some kind of evil spirit raining fire down upon Verizon to such an extent that the company's employees are forced to become superheroes. It just kind of makes you wonder.

Just like I'm wondering what's going to happen when a Verizon crew does work on … gulp, Fire Road?

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