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Seattle firefighters become heroes in W VA


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  • Seattle firefighters become heroes in W VA

    nice to read a GREAT news story for a change. good job guys!!!!

    Thursday, June 26, 2003

    Far from home, firefighters come upon crash, go to work


    Flames from the burning SUV, knocked on its side along a West Virginia highway, kept Seattle firefighter Todd Rademacher at bay as he tried to crawl in to help the unconscious woman inside.

    As four other Seattle firefighters sprayed the vehicle's interior with the remaining foam from some fire extinguishers, Rademacher tried again.

    "He went inside up to his belt buckle and started screaming at her, and she opened her eyes," said Seattle fire Lt. Matt Rogers. "She held up her arms and he pulled her out."

    It was pure coincidence that brought the firefighters along Interstate 64 east of Raleigh, W. Va., Tuesday night at just the right time.

    Rogers, Rademacher, Mike Todd, Tony Bennett and Lt. Eddie Nelson are part of a larger group from Seattle in West Virginia for specialized training in tunnel rescues, arriving Saturday for a program offered by the Center for National Response, which has a tunnel used for drills involving everything from multiple car accidents to earthquakes to terrorist attacks. They're scheduled to return to Seattle on Saturday.

    The five had just completed training for the day and were returning to their hotel in East Beckley when they saw smoke.

    Nelson is with Ladder 12 at Station 28 in Rainier Valley. The others are part of the Ladder 7 crew, a technical rescue team at Station 14 in the Sodo District.

    "Tony says, 'Hey, there's a fire,' " Rogers said. The others didn't think much of it, only enough to estimate it was about four miles away when they first spotted it.

    "It's not something we've never seen before," Rogers said.

    The smoke got darker and thicker, and within minutes, they were upon the accident.

    The Raleigh County Sheriff's Office reported that a 42-year-old woman was driving east on the highway about 6:30 p.m. when she ran off the road and into a median, hitting a guardrail.

    The impact flipped her GMC onto its side, rupturing the fuel tank and igniting a fire.

    That's when the Seattle crew happened by.

    "We get 200, 300 yards away and we saw an ambulance, but no fire apparatus," Rogers said. "We went around the ambulance and there was a lot of people, like truckers, that stopped and were running around with fire extinguishers. They were pretty panicked."

    The firefighters, some in street clothes, a few wearing department T-shirts, got out of their rented Hyundai sedan --and immediately realized they had no gear. A bystander told them a woman was trapped in the GMC, flames heading to the front.

    "We just got done leaving a tunnel with all the equipment you could ask for," Rogers said. "All we had was some coveralls."

    The windshield broke out on impact, something that might have saved the woman's life because it released smoke that otherwise might have asphyxiated her. But the heat and flames were intense, and Rademacher couldn't reach her.

    "Todd kind of laid on his stomach and crawled up to the windshield," Rogers said. "There were flames shooting 10 feet above the car."

    That's when the other firefighters grabbed extinguishers from the bystanders, using them to push the fire back and give Rademacher space to work.

    Once he was able to alert the woman and pull her out, all five carried her to a grassy area about 10 feet away.

    Using gear from the ambulance, which also just happened to be passing by, the firefighters helped the woman until local rescuers could arrive. Even then, they continued working.

    The fire engine that arrived to put out the fire carried a two-man volunteer crew, so Nelson pitched in, borrowing a helmet and too-small coat.

    The woman, pulled from her vehicle with smoking hair and burning clothes, suffered burns to her legs, back and shoulders. She was taken to a local hospital, then to a burn treatment center in Pittsburgh.

    Rogers said the woman's burns were bad, but survivable, and none reached her face.

    Still, he said, it was close.

    "She was 30 seconds or so from dying. The fire was just coming up there so fast," Rogers said. "There wasn't a lot of time to screw around with plan B."

    He credited bystanders with buying time by doing their best to fight the fire with handheld extinguishers.

    "It wasn't that we did anything special," he said. "We were just real lucky."
    I'll post, You argue.

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