Striking teachers drop picket signs to rescue people from fire

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(CNN) -- Five striking teachers are being praised for their quick action after spotting a house fire in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

The teachers were picketing in front of a school Thursday near Pittsburgh, when a fire broke out in a house across the street, authorities said.

"A lady ... started shouting, 'Call 911!'," Paul Hladio, one of the teachers told CNN affiliate WTAE.

That's when the teachers dropped their pickets signs and sprang into action. One said she sprinted across the street, almost getting hit by a car.

They then made frantic efforts to find the occupants in the minutes before fire crews arrived -- and helped them get out of the building.

Home heavily damaged by blaze

"I was pounding the front door, and eventually I think the front door just kicked through," Karen DeMarco said. Three people were rescued from inside the home -- including an elderly man who had trouble walking, another person with medical oxygen and a former student who DeMarco had taught, WTAE reported.

No one was injured in the fire that heavily damaged the home.

"If the teachers wouldn't have been here ... there's a chance somebody could have been very seriously injured or even worse," said Ambridge Fire Chief Rob Gottschalk.

Nearly 190 teachers walked out of classrooms on Tuesday in a dispute with the school district over pay and benefits.

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