At 5am on April 5, 2023, Krone Brown and Kenneith Carter, local 1961 City of Albany, were on their usual route picking up garbage when they noticed the smell of what seemed like burning rubber. Moments later, they found themselves first-on-scene at a blazing building fire where they could hear the cries for help from the residents trapped inside. Without hesitation, they bravely kicked down the doors to a burning building and their courageous decisions in that moment saved the lives of many people.

Krone Brown has worked for the City of Albany for 3 years and loves the physical challenge of the work. All of his previous work was in sanitation, but this job is the first time he’s ever been part of a union. He likes being part of a group that he says, “…makes good things happen for workers.” In previous roles, he says he’s known friends who became injured on the job while the employer had no regard for their safety. With a union, though, he says: “Safety comes first.”

Kenneith Carter says he appreciates that with a union there’s always someone to back you up. “You’re part of a family,” he says, “and that means everything.” Family and support have special meaning for Kenneith who came to the job two years ago as a seasonal employee after being previously incarcerated. “I am grateful for the opportunity this job has given me.”

When Carter & Brown first saw the burning building, they immediately called 911 for help. As they waited for first responders, though, they could hear the cries of children, and they knew they had to jump into action. “The cries of those kids triggered something in me,” says Carter. “I felt the need to be a father, a protector for these children. That’s something I never had.”

Brown recalls ushering people out of the building. “People were confused, sleepy and panicked,” he says. “It was early and when an officer did arrive, Kenneith & Krone directed him to help them kick down doors.” One particular challenge was a tenant who needed extra help while transporting him, his prosthetic leg and his bicycle – his only means of transportation – down the stairs. “I quickly grabbed all three,” Brown remembers, “and carried them down those stairs!” Carter remembers the backdraft – which is a phenomenon that occurs when a fire suddenly explodes as it consumes more oxygen, typically because a door or a window have been opened. “We were working as fast as we could to get everyone out and that fire was moving just as fast,” he says. “And then that backdraft hit me and I had to jump out of the way.” Seconds felt like weeks in the race against that fire. By the time the fire department arrived, Brown and Carter had managed to evacuate the entire building with no injuries and could hear the crackling wood of a collapsing building as they stood outside.

Despite their major act of bravery in evacuating the building, there was still more to do. Brown and Carter left the scene – refusing medical treatment – and resumed their work route. “The garbage still had to be picked up,” says Krone.

Kenneith and Krone both believe that a higher power intervened that night. They say they didn’t feel any fear until after the whole incident was over and would do it again. “God left us there to use us as a vessel to save children and those children deserved to live,” says Carter. “In life, there are moments bigger than ourselves. When we embrace people and give them a second chance, sometimes they are in the exact right place to courageously use that second chance to save someone’s life.”