Off-Duty Ronald Reagan Sailors Help Save Home from Brush Fire

Story Number: NNS070727-25Release Date: 7/27/2007 6:54:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cara Maib, USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs

LEMON GROVE, Calif. (NNS) -- Three off-duty USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Sailors held back a July 24 brush fire with garden hoses until the fire department arrived, saving the home of a neighbor in Lemon Grove, Calif.

While making repairs to the roof of their own home, roommates Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class (SW) Thomas Emerick, Interior Communications Electrician 2nd (SW) Class Van Tran and Airman (AW) Taylor Wise said they noticed smoke a few blocks over.

Tran was the first of the three to see the smoke and had alerted the other two Sailors to call 911. After making the call, all three Sailors said they ran over to see how they could help.

Upon arrival at the scene, the Sailors said they saw a brush fire in a ditch downhill from a house. They also found Karla Godfrey, with a garden hose in one hand and a baby in the other, trying to defend her home from the approaching fire.

"I was certain we were going to be homeless," said Godfrey, a mother of three and owner of two German shepherds.

The Sailors said they immediately took action.

"I grabbed the hose and told them to grab two more," said Wise.

According to Emerick, the fire spread very quickly and was approaching Godfrey's car as well as her home. Two of the Sailors, Godfrey and her babysitter went to try to push the car away from the flames.

The Sailors said that within three minutes the fire had spread across a field until it was about one-third the size of Ronald Reagan's flight deck.

"We just kept the fire from getting any closer," said Emerick. "It was just huge. I was amazed at how fast it grew."

Once the firefighters arrived 15 minutes later, Emerick, Tran and Wise said they kept their hoses trained on the grass to prevent any reflash.

"Being advanced DC [damage control] qualified and the rapid response team leader in my duty section [on board Ronald Reagan] definitely helped," said Emerick.

"We've done firefighting on the ship a few times, but that's the first time I've ever fought a fire in PT gear," said Tran.

When asked why he and the others had stepped up to the task, Emerick responded modestly, "How could we not?"

"[Godfrey] thanked us over and over again in tears," said Wise. "I'm just glad her house didn't burn down."

"There is no question in my mind that my house would have burned down if not for them, my neighbor and the grace of God," said Godfrey. "They didn't stop for anything. They didn't care about getting burned or inhaling smoke. They didn't have any fear. I owe them big time."

Ronald Reagan is currently undergoing a planned incremental availability in her homeport of San Diego following a three-month surge deployment in support of operations in the Western Pacific.

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