Brant Cirrincione might have thought his day was off to a bad start when, five minutes into his morning commute, he realized he had forgotten his wallet.
But because of his lapse, a family of four is alive today after fire destroyed their Armstrong County home. And Mr. Cirrincione's co-workers at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation are calling him a hero.
Mr. Cirrincione, who resides in Cabot, Butler County, left home about 6:20 a.m., bound for Clarion County, where he is PennDOT's maintenance equipment manager. Backtracking to get his wallet put him about 10 minutes behind schedule -- 10 life-saving minutes, as it turned out.
As he drove along Route 28/66 in Boggs, around 7 a.m., "I saw a pretty decent orange glow out of the corner of my eye," he said. He immediately went to investigate, and saw smoke pouring from the dwelling.
"I started beating on the side of the house, the walls, the windows, the doors," he said. He also called to a neighbor to phone 911.
Before long, the mother came out the front door. "She was hollering 'My babies, my babies.' I made it in the house maybe 10 feet and the father was coming out carrying both children," he said.
The children were toddlers, he said. Someone -- he forgets who -- told him no one else was inside.
Within 15 minutes, the home was engulfed, Mr. Cirrincione said. He waited about 30 minutes until his truck was no longer blocked in, then left for work.
"I'm sure he contributed to saving the whole family's lives," PennDOT spokeswoman Deborah Casadei said. "He deserves all of our thanks. He's our PennDOT hero."
"Just doing what anyone would do," Mr. Cirrincione said.
Route 28/66 was closed in both directions for about two hours. The American Red Cross was assisting the family.
Mr. Cirrincione, who has worked for PennDOT for nine years, said he's not one to forget things -- until Wednesday.
"I was talking to my wife, and I said, 'God works in mysterious ways.' "
'Just doing what anyone would do.'
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868.