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Richard Johann, Citizen Hero, Mistakenly Snubs Fire Chief's Thanks

St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler thanks Johann, MIA.

St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler thanks Johann, MIA.

Richard Johann has a knack for timing.

He's a Good Samaritan who rushed to save a woman and her infant from a burning house in July, yet his absence at a pre-planned recognition ceremony at the St. Paul Fire Station on Tuesday left Fire Chief Tim Butler wringing his hands before a baffled crowd.

On July 28, Johann and a friend had just left The Tin Cup restaurant when they spotted a column of black smoke rising above the rooftops of their North End neighborhood a couple blocks away. They ran toward the smoke and found the blazing duplex at 1210 Albemarle St., half a mile away from the fire station at 225 Front Ave.

Before firefighters arrived, Johann circled to the side of the house where Lynette Pryor was standing at the bedroom window with her six-month-old daughter. He punched in the window, handed the child to his friend and then helped Pryor through.

When fire department spokesman Steve Zaccard called Johann's girlfriend on Tuesday to track the hero down, she said the ceremony had slipped his mind.

Chief Butler says the St. Paul Fire Department honors a handful of citizen heroes every year, but Johann's rescue had been a particularly dramatic one. No one has ever ditched before, but at least he was present when it really mattered.

"Next time we'll go pick him up," Zaccard said.

See also: Fire in Historic Downtown Minneapolis Building Results in Rooftop Rescue