Reporting Anjali Hemphill
ESCALON (CBS13) – It was a dangerous scene when a tanker burst into flames Saturday while making its way to an elderly couple’s Escalon home.
Unfortunately, the driver of the tanker truck died in the crash; but it could have been much worse if not for some fire crews passing by and the California Highway Patrol officer who went above and beyond.
“Everywhere you looked was on fire,” said CHP Officer Angel Arceo. “It was pretty crazy.”
A tanker carrying 8,000 gallons of gas burst into flames after colliding with a box car, drenching both sides of Mariposa Road with fuel.
“In my eight years on the job, its probably one of the craziest things I’ve seen,” said Arceo.
The three car crash killed the driver of the tanker truck, and sparked a 2-acre grass fire that burning dangerously close to Gene Nimocks’ home.
“I came out the front door and the heat was already so intense from those burning bushes which were saturated with gasoline that I couldn’t even stand here on the porch” he said.
The fire from the explosion was so hot it melted down metal pieces of truck into liquid.
Through thick black smoke CHP Officer Angel Arceo spotted Gene’s wife, Shirley, trapped in their driveway with fire all around, and power lines strewn across the only safe path out.
So Arceo jumped into action, helping Shirley get to safety by giving her a bear hug and jumping her over the wire.
Crews coming home from the Rim Fire happened to drive by at the right moment. They saw the flames and stopped to help put them out, saving even more homes and possible lives.
“We were just lucky, and we wish everyday is like that, that when we need someone, they are there to help us out,” said Arceo.
Shirley says she’s lucky Arceo was there truly living up to his name.
CHP says the driver who caused the accident will face vehicular manslaughter charges.
Mariposa Road was reopened Sunday after crews repaved the road.
Utility crews have restored power to nearby homes.