Eagle's Salmon rescue sheds light on fire-extinguisher checks
Like cellphones, or most of us after a few late nights in a row, fire extinguishers need to be recharged periodically to be at their full potential. That was never more evident than the morning of August 7, as Salmon Maintenance Foreman Jeff Eagle raced to an overturned vehicle on US-93 and the young girl inside, screaming for help.
He was her only hope at the moment, but even as he ran, he had to wonder if his fire extinguisher would even work.
On that Tuesday morning, Jeff started the day thinking about a sign installation. On his way back to Salmon, however, he glanced in his rearview mirror and witnessed a car overcorrecting as it went off the road a few hundred feet behind him. The car came back across the roadway, but luckily there was no oncoming traffic. The car rolled.
"It was the most violent vehicle rollover I have ever witnessed," said Eagle. "It went airborne and rolled at least 5 or 6 times and landed on its side against a landowner's fence in an irrigation ditch."
Eagle stopped and turned around to help. As the first one on the scene, he called StateComm and asked for an ambulance and sheriff to assist.
"I knew it wasn't going to be pretty when I ran to the vehicle. When I came upon the car, it was severely damaged and crushed. I couldn't even tell what kind of car it was. What I saw next was horrifying. There was a young girl pinned under the rear axle of the car. She was awake but screaming. I tried to comfort her as well as I could."
He then realized the engine was still running.
"I couldn't believe there was still an engine left in the car. I had to shut the engine off before it caught fire. There was no one else involved in the wreck, so I tried to get my arm through the car window to shut off the engine. It was difficult and the key was bent, so my first attempt failed."
With his adrenaline kicked in, the second attempt to turn the engine off was successful. "I was able to turn the key just enough to shut it off," Eagle explained.
"I was somewhat relieved, but also knew it could still catch on fire from the hot engine. Then the second thought hit me.' I HAVE NEVER CHECKED THE FIRE EXTINGUISHER IN MY ITD PICKUP TO SEE IF IT WAS STILL CHARGED. SHAME ON ME.'"
"What would I have been able to do if the car would have caught on fire with that young girl pinned under it? Fortunately, it did not and my fire extinguisher was charged. What a break."
"We have always been fairly good about checking the fire extinguishers in the buildings, but we need to be more diligent in checking the ones in the equipment and other vehicles in case we are put into this circumstance while doing our jobs."
District 6 Safety Compliance Officer Ron Butler explained that fire extinguishers are checked annually and tested as needed. This year, we found six trucks, three loaders, and several pickups or cars with fire extinguishers that needed to be recharged. They had not been used, but had leaked off anyway.
Butler said that if a fire extinguisher needs to be replaced or recharged, Supply will change out the old one.
"We try to get to all vehicles and buildings, but often miss a few because they are out on jobsites, so check your extinguishers and if they don't have a 2017 tag on them, change them out so you know you have a good working unit," he added.
"It only takes a minute. It would not hurt to have a fire extinguisher in our personal vehicles also," he said.
"In my career with ITD, I have witnessed numerous vehicle accident injuries and fatalities - but this one alarmed me the most, and really woke me up about the importance of regular fire extinguisher checks."