Woman pulled from burning car, Mendo sheriff hurt
Published: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 8:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 8:40 p.m.
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman suffered second-degree burns to his hands Tuesday night while pulling a critically injured Ukiah woman from a burning vehicle on Highway 101 north of Ukiah.
“Tom is an absolute hero,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jim Wattenburger, who arrived on the scene on southbound Highway 101 near the Highway 20 exit, shortly after Allman had pulled the woman from the burning car.
The woman was flown to the burn unit at U.C. Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. Her condition was not available.
“My prayers are with the family,” Allman said shortly after being released from Ukiah Valley Medical Center, both hands bandaged.
Allman would not release the name of the woman because of medical privacy laws, but said her father is a local physician.
Allman was on his way home from work when he spotted the small sport utility vehicle parked on the shoulder of southbound lanes near Calpella. The interior was on fire, Allman said.
He radioed for help as he pulled up behind the vehicle, which had become engulfed in flames.
As he approached on foot, another passerby told him someone was inside.
Wattenburger said he arrived as Allman had pulled the woman out of the vehicle and wrapped her in a blanket to extinguish the flames. It was not clear what caused the car to catch on fire.
Wattenburger and Allman placed the woman in a special sleeping-bag like blanket designed for burn victims and tended to her until paramedics arrived.
As they cared for her, the vehicle’s gas tank ruptured, shooting flames across two lanes of the highway, Wattenbuger said.
“We had to quickly pick her up and move her,” he said.
The fire ignited some grass and threatened a nearby home before being extinguished by firefighters, Wattenburger said.
“It was chaotic,” he said.
A number of people stopped to help, directing traffic and helping to care for the woman.
“There were some really great citizens there,” Allman said.
Allman downplayed his injuries. He said his left hand was the more badly injured. He can use the fingers on his right hand, he said.
“I’m fine. I’ll be back to work Thursday,” he said.
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