The New Mexico morning was a little cooler than usual, even for February. DeShawn Martinez was thinking about shelving. Specifically, he was thinking about situating shelves in his kitchen to support herbs and decorative plants.
Martinez managed to save enough to purchase a home just over a year ago in Hobbs, N.M., working as a maintenance mechanic journeyman at nearby Cunningham Generating Station. Things were coming together. In just a few short months, Martinez would marry fiancé Makenzie Buhler.
The kitchen shelves may have been just a small part of turning the house into a home, but they were enough motivation for an early morning trip to the hardware store.
Shelving materials in hand not 20 minutes later, Martinez stopped at the local Starbucks for his favorite black cold brew. Only after the coffee jolt wore off would Martinez reflect on the seemingly trivial events of this cozy Saturday.
‘Your back porch is on fire’
About a block from his home, Martinez noticed dark smoke curling into the sky. “It didn’t look like your average barbecue,” he said. “I couldn’t see exactly where it was coming from and curiosity got the best of me.” He steered into the alley, pulling up behind the house.
“There were tarps covering the back porch and smoke was rolling out,” said Martinez, who quickly dialed 911.
He drove around street-side so he could relay the home’s address, jumping out of his truck and pounding on the front door. No response. He pounded again. The door finally creaked open to a pajama-clad man rubbing his eyes under tangled hair, apparently woken from a deep sleep.
“He had no idea what was going on,” Martinez said. “I told him, ‘I’m pretty sure your back porch is on fire.’”
The homeowner hurried to inspect after Martinez’s warning, opening the rear door of the house to a small inferno, and shoving it closed, realizing nothing could be done.
“I ran to my truck for a fire extinguisher,” said Martinez, who was still on the phone with emergency dispatch.
Smoke began to fill the house. The man roused his wife, two teenage boys, two dogs and one cat into the front yard, just as the firefighters arrived.
“The fire department had a truck there in less than three minutes,” Martinez said. “The flames had gone into the attic, so they had to bust out the living room ceiling.”
The firehose was sprawled in front of Martinez’s truck; otherwise, he might have left the scene after everything was under control, before the younger of the two sons, maybe about 12 years old, came up and gave Martinez a hug. “Thanks for saving my life,” he said.
See something, do something
“I care for other people whether they are strangers or close friends,” said Martinez, born and raised in this southeast New Mexico town currently enjoying an oil boom. “It really didn’t make me feel like a hero or anything,”
A member of Xcel Energy’s emergency response team, Martinez admitted something else may have been at work in Hobbs that morning. “It just hit me how important it was that I just happened to be out that morning and could help that family,” he said.
As if someone was trying to emphasize the point, across the town of 38,000 another house caught fire that same morning. Two people suffered smoke inhalation and were taken to the hospital by ambulance.
At the Life Sustaining Award presentation, from left, David Low, general manager of Texas and New Mexico energy supply, Michael Martinez, the recipient’s father and instrument and controls journeyman at Maddox Generating Station, Makenzie Buhler, fiancé of DeShawn Martinez, maintenance mechanic journeyman and member of Cunningham Generating Station’s emergency response team, Stacy Martinez, the mother, and David Hudson, president, Xcel Energy – Texas, New Mexico.
“Because of his actions, DeShawn saved the life of the family inside,” said Chris Schaff, Martinez’s supervisor at Cunningham. Plant director Jeff Bryant joined in the praise, “I am very proud of DeShawn.”
Xcel Energy’s 24/7 Safety campaign “Bringing Safety Home” talks about living safely every day and every hour. The campaign focuses on intervening when you see something unsafe: “When you consider the consequences of not speaking up, it will inspire you to work at developing a 24/7 safety mindset.”
A corrosion control technician in training in Xcel Energy-Colorado’s gas organization also received a Life Sustaining Award for his heroic actions while witnessing a Denver house fire. Brandon Duran, who is also a volunteer firefighter, guided an individual and their pet as well as the nextdoor neighbors to safety after the original fire spread.
The Life Sustaining Award is given to Xcel Energy employees whose actions lead directly to saving a life or lives. It’s given to employees who render aid in an emergency, sustain another until ERT personnel arrive or assure a person is clear of harm and can access assistance.
Pictured (from left to right): Mike Chance, Steve Brackney, Tim Minor, Ken Waller, Mark Ream, Devin Hagman, Wayne Grundmeyer, Sam Tellechea, Brandon Duran, Jared Duran, Stephanie Biagiotti, Keith Sykes, Mark Boswell, Robert Freeman, Roger Morgan