Local chief honored after saving a life
The morning of March 10 started like any other for Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District Chief Bob Frank, until a 9800 call came in over the radio.
A driver in the Mohawk Vista area reported smoke, and while the call was for the Graeagle Fire Department, Frank happened to be within 3 minutes of where the call originated.
“Typically, calls in the morning are things like grease fires or burnt toast setting off a smoke alarm,” Frank said. In any case, Frank radioed in to dispatch and volunteered to do a size up. “I didn’t even have an address to go off of,” Frank explained. Frank drove onto Mohawk Vista Drive and quickly found a column of smoke coming from a home at 69067 Mohawk Vista Drive in Blairsden.
“There were 15- to 20-foot flames coming out of the windows,” Frank said. “I immediately let dispatch know that we had a fully engulfed, single structure fire.”
Frank leapt into action, working his way around the home in what is termed a “hot lap,” where a firefighter circles the structure and surveys for hazards.
“I started beating on the windows, working my way around from the front of the house, and by the time I reached the garage, I heard a very faint call for help,” Frank continued. “Now I know I have someone inside.”
Frank tried both garage doors, but they wouldn’t move. “Neither door would open, so I went around to the side door leading into the garage and threw my weight into it until it gave.”
Frank described the billowing clouds of smoke that rolled out of the garage when he got the door open. “I yelled ‘Fire department!’ again and again heard that very faint cry for help,” Frank said.
In the pitch black, Frank dropped down and moved blindly into the building, finding an elderly man lying on his back, hidden halfway under a vehicle.
The urgency of the situation became apparent, with flames breathing toward the garage, and smoke causing difficulty breathing. “I pulled him out from under the car by his legs and grabbed his arm, telling him we’ve got to go, we’ve got to get out of here,” Frank said.
The victim told Frank, “I can’t walk.” Frank then moved the victim, getting him out of the building and laying him down to wait for medical assistance a distance away from the garage.
At this point, Frank was able to radio in to dispatch once more, reporting the removal of one victim from the house, with another victim non-accessible.
By this time, mutual aid was in full effect, and after establishing the Mohawk I.C., Frank directed the first engine from Graeagle Fire up the driveway and Graeagle’s crew leapt into action.
Graeagle Fire was quickly followed by Plumas-Eureka Fire, and upon the arrival of Graeagle Fire Chief Ed Ward, Frank turned over incident command and went to be checked out by medical personnel after his exposure to smoke.
Due to Frank’s quick action, a life was saved. On March 23, the Plumas County Fire Chiefs’ Association recognized Chief Frank’s bravery and bold action with an award for life saving.
“I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Frank said. “I’m just doing my job as a volunteer fire fighter. My goal is always to help the community that I’m serving, and I am always working to unify EPRFPD with all county fire departments — we’re all on the same team, doing the same job.”
Frank has served as a volunteer fire fighter with EPRFPD since 2007, and as chief since 2012, and looks forward to serving his community in this capacity for many years to come.