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9-1-1 rescue gets personal


New ECOMB employee helps neighbour out of house fire.

When Carl Bala started at Emergency Communications and Operations Branch (ECOMB), he never thought he would be taking matters into his own hands. Recently, he did just that when he saved a neighbour from a house fire. 

"I got a call that one of our members had rescued some folks from a house fire on their way to work, but still showed up and was apologetic for being late," says Kalie Anderson, Director of ECOMB.  

For Bala, who has worked in security, with Zebra Child and Youth Advocacy Centre and hopes to one day be a police officer, helping people has always come naturally, but never to this degree. Bala says he was leaving for work when he saw smoke and two girls trying to knock on the neighbour’s door.

He could hear someone inside the house calling for help and jumped into action. "My adrenaline kicked in. I did not think about it. I just went in, helped them out, and as soon as I heard the sirens, I flagged the firefighters, went back to my car, and went on my way to work."

Bala's humble nature and work ethic have been at the forefront of his character from the beginning. Anderson says even during his ECOMB training, when he received his Canadian citizenship, Bala barely said anything about it, "he didn't make a big deal out of it. So, it didn't surprise me that he had just come to work and not really said anything about being involved in this event. He doesn't want to brag about himself, but I'm happy to brag on his behalf.”

After being sent to the hospital by his supervisor, Bala waited for the all-clear from his doctor then stopped by his neighbour's room to ensure they were all right. "Everyone is okay. It's just sad because most of their stuff was completely burned. But I'm glad that no one died. Everyone is good.”

As a new 9-1-1 operator, Bala says being on the other side of the call taught him a lot and will change how he responds to calls. "Being behind that phone and calling 9-1-1, those 20 seconds feel like five or ten minutes. I can feel people behind that call when something really bad is happening to them, and they're high on adrenaline. I can't blame people for how escalated they are because, at the end of the day, people have different responses to trauma."  

Bala, who believes he only did what anyone would do, was recently honoured by the Edmonton Police Service with an award in recognition of his life-saving actions. However, Anderson feels that the ECOMB team received the greatest reward in their new member, who is already doing great things for the community.

 "For someone who's such a new member to already be operating at such a high level is impressive. We would never expect a citizen to run into a burning building, so for him to go above and beyond like that just marks the start of what could be a great career with us. And I hope he'll be with us for a long time."