DAMASCUS, Md. (ABC7) — A U.S. Postal Service letter carrier is being recognized for delivering heroism on his mail route.
Around 11:45 a.m. last Tuesday, mailman Daniel Colon pulled up to a home along Largo Court in Damascus. As he opened a mailbox, Colon noticed smoke wafting into the air. It turned out a Ford Expedition had caught fire in the driveway, and quickly spread orange flames to the two-story brick home.
Colon exited his mail truck, walked to the front door and rang the smart doorbell. That sent an alert to homeowner Kani Bassey's cell phone as she drove down Interstate 270 to a workout class. The mother-of-four had just left her home 15 minutes earlier.
“He said, 'Your car is on fire.' I said, 'What do you mean my car is on fire!?'"
Bassey's Vivint doorbell camera captured Colon as he called 911 to report the emergency. In that same video, Bassey's crated dogs and pet ferret could be heard panicking inside. After hanging up with 911, Colon ran back to his mail truck for cover from the fire, which was growing in size.
Meanwhile, Bassey turned around on I-270 and sped back home, arriving in what she estimates to have been about 20 minutes. By that time, Montgomery County firefighters were busy extinguishing the blaze at her home of 15 years. Bassey was greatly relieved to see her Shih Tzu, named Bianka, Maltipoo, named Sammy Davis Jr., and ferret, named Barkley, alive and uninjured.
Colon, however, was noticeably missing from the scene. It turned out, he had already returned to his mail route.
“He takes his job very seriously," Bassey said with a chuckle. "And for that I’m extremely appreciative.”
After all, Bassey's street consists of predominantly middle-class families. On weekdays children attend school and parents go to work. Bassey cringes when thinking about how far the fire would have spread without Colon’s watchful eye.
“Well, it’s certainly not in the job description, per se," joked Michael Hotovy, a spokesman for the U.S.P.S. "But the postal service is proud that our carriers accept that civic responsibility as part of doing their job.”
Hotovy — who worked as a mailman for more than 30 years before transitioning into the public relations department — stated it is not uncommon for letter carriers to offer a helping hand. In some cases they'll assist people who have fallen. In other instances they'll report suspicious behavior such as an elderly person with mail backing up in their box.
“We do get invested in the community," Hotovoy added. “It’s not unusual to hear stories about carriers who, like Danny, would call 911 in an emergency situation.”
Despite his admirable actions, Colon declined ABC7's request for an on-camera interview. As Hotovy put it, Colon, a letter carrier for around five years, is a humble and private man.
“He just saw it as something he’d hope that everybody would do in that circumstance and that it’s not something extraordinary even though the house owner might have a different view.”
Bassey and her four children — ages five, 14, 16 and 18 — are now living out of a hotel in Germantown. A local animal shelter is caring for her two dogs as a courtesy, and a friend is watching after her pet ferret.
Bassey's insurance provider has indicated it will take up to three months to restore the damaged interior and exterior portions of her home. Investigators continue to process her 2011 Ford Expedition in hopes of determining why it caught fire around the engine block. The front end is burnt to a crisp.
“We had just replaced the transmission,” Bassey remarked while shaking her head. “It was the car my boys used. Now we're down to one car for all of us.”
As soon as the frustration over insurance claims, cramped hotel rooms and ruined belongings begins to build, Bassey is reminded by her mailman’s goodwill.
“Thank you. That’s what I would like to say, thank you so much for saving the rest of our house, and the pets, and just being there when he was.”
The U.S. Postal Service plans to recommend Colon for a "Hero Award," an honor the federal government agency has presented to standout letter carriers since 1974.