Recognizing two Truckee heroes |

Recognizing two Truckee heroes

I wrote an article in this forum awhile back about the subject of heroes and how our society has a tendency to place the label of hero on folks who do things really well like athletics for example.

I even went out on a limb and suggested that perhaps great athletes are a pleasure to watch and amaze us but maybe the handle of “hero” is slightly misplaced. On the subject of real heroes I saw a presentation by a young captain from the Marine Corps the other day. He had his arm shot off during the conflict in Iraq. His personal resolve before, during and after the event is simply amazing. This young captain basically said he is expected to act in this fashion mainly because of his training. In some ways, the same analogy can be applied to firefighters and police officers.

We receive intense training to handle the types of events that we might be expected to deal with in our daily operations. OK, so marines, firefighters and police officers are supposed to handle themselves. But what about citizens who step up to the plate when the chips are down? I think they fit in the category of hero just fine and I would like to tell you about two that live right here.

Let me introduce you to Joelle Comeaux.

Joelle is 16 years old. She was baby-sitting the other night at a house for two families, overseeing a total of four kids and a few dogs. After raising two kids of my own, Joelle is a hero in my book just for taking on four. Anyhow, the stovepipe in this house was slightly plugged up and started to burn. In fact it started to burn so good the pipe above the stove started to turn orange, the stove started pumping out smoke and if my past experience is any indicator, at that time Joelle probably thought the whole thing was going to blow up.

This 16-year-old girl calmly contacted the parents and gave the correct information for the fire department to be called, and she proceeded to get all the kids out of the house. Now think about this: four kids, a fire in a house? Getting them all out is a bit like herding cats. She got one out, went to get more, and while doing that, the first one went back in bed. To make a long story short, she had all of them out and safe in the car when the fire engine showed up. They were able to extinguish the fire with no damage to the home or the kids. You know as I read this I just don’t have the ability to write in a fashion to paint a picture of this event. I know there was potential for pandemonium, Joelle decided that was not going to be the case and handled it all very well. I hope the families gave her a great big tip; she is No. 1 in my book!

Next, I would like to introduce Brent Hayes, just another average citizen who decided to step up to the plate.

You see, the fire and police departments responded to a reported structure fire in a garage the other morning. On arrival we found a house with significant smoke coming out the garage and front door – a working fire. The owner was out, and there stood a fellow we came to know as Brent Hayes. I did not get a chance to talk with him, but Officer Bryan Berry did.

Apparently Mr. Hayes happened to be driving by the house and saw more smoke than he thought normal. He went to the door and found the owner coming out. He then found a fire burning on the steps at the back door in the garage. He could not find a hose, so he threw snow on the fire basically keeping it in check until the fire engines arrived. Although the smoke and heat did significant damage to the home, the actions of Mr. Hayes did two important things. He ensured the people were out of the house and he kept the fire from flashing over in the garage and house so it could not take possession of the structure. He did so at great risk to himself. The family just moved into this house and renovated it. They still have a wonderful home to renovate again.

Incidentally, make sure you clean your stovepipe in a regular fashion and place the ashes from your stove in a proper container. If that had been the case, Joelle and Brent would not be my heroes today, but with that said folks like them rise above many of us sooner or later. I am glad they were where they were this last week.

Mike Terwilliger is chief of the Truckee Fire Department.

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