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NEWS | March 1, 2017

JB Charleston coworkers feeling the heat

By Technical Sgt. Christopher Cross 628th Air Base Wing Executive Support Services

This past Presidents Day I watched from the entrance of my garage while my wife and son drove away to a doctor’s appointment.  As I turned back to finish the project I had been working on, my Mom, who was visiting for the weekend, called out, “Ethan is getting out and running back. He must have forgotten something.”

Then I heard him shouting, “Dad, there is a truck on fire!”

A small pickup truck was backed into the driveway of a home around the corner from my house. The front end was fully engulfed in fire. The flames licked at the sky 20 feet in the air and thick black smoke rose a hundred feet before being carried away by the wind.  

The flaming truck was in front of the house of our neighborhood friends, Dale and Debi.  Dale’s work truck was ablaze. He worked for a pesticide company and a large tank of chemicals was the bed of the truck. 

Several cars had driven up; the drivers all had cellphones to their ears and I assumed they were trying to call 911. I looked back toward the truck and determined no one in the vicinity was trying to put the fire out. I realized if something wasn’t done, the truck would burn to the ground and the house could catch fire as well.

I grabbed a garden hose coiled next to the garage, turned the water on and ran toward the front of the pickup truck. Because the heat was intense, I stood 15 feet away aiming the water nozzle toward the burning truck. I used a sweeping motion to try and quell the flames. 

While fighting the fire, I noticed two others joining the battle. A neighbor was spraying the front of the truck with a fire extinguisher and Staff Sgt. Matt Parker, my friend, co-worker and neighbor, was pulling a hose from across the street in an effort to douse the fire.

By this time a crowd had gathered. Debi had come out of her home and was looking on in shock. Dale had just arrived from running errands and seemed to be stunned.

Parker, my neighbor and I continued fighting the fire until the fire department arrived.

Once the professionals charged their hoses and began shooting high pressure water into the trucks engine and cab, I retreated to a safe distance where my Mom was standing with some other neighbors. We watched the firefighters kill the remaining flames.

Fortunately the fire never made it past the cab of the truck and the reservoir holding the chemicals remained untouched. No other property was damaged and no one was injured by what could have become a very large fire.

At the end of the day, it was a stark reminder for me. As military members, we are on duty 24 hours a day 365 days a year and we need to be prepared to respond to the unexpected on-base or off.