Barnwell man tows flaming vehicle away from home

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A Barnwell man helped prevent a home from catching fire by towing a burning vehicle away from a duplex. Matt Battochio reports – Feb 14, 2019

On Monday afternoon, David Koethler was driving past Barnwell when he noticed plumes of smoke rising from a place that looked close to his home.

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“He (David) called me because he was scared there was fire in the home,” recalled his wife Caylee Koethler. “I said, ‘no, I don’t see any smoke, we’re safe here.’”

After realizing it wasn’t his home, David went looking for the cause of the smoke, and eventually found it.

“When I got there [I saw] a van and the front of it was fully engulfed in flames,” David said. “And I noticed it was parked really close to the house.”
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The vehicle was right next to a duplex and David quickly took action. He decided to tow the vehicle away, in an effort to save the homes.

“There was no hitch, or anything, so I had to reach around the wheel and then crawl underneath and grab it from beneath the axle,” David said. “And then another guy helped me loop it around and hook it on to my truck and then I just pulled it away.”

Filled with adrenaline from towing the van away, David may not have realized what kind of danger he had put himself in.

“Obviously looking back it was probably kind of stupid of me,” David said.  “But yeah, it was kind of on fire and things were kind of blowing up. I think it was the air bags, or the suspension the shocks blowing up.”

On Monday, David was able to meet a woman who lives in the home. She was inside when the fire broke out.

“That was very nice of him; I appreciate it very much,” Helena Klassen said. “[I remember at the time] I was thinking the house might go on fire, too. I could see the siding melting down.”
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The Municipal District of Taber Regional Fire Service put the fire out minutes after David pulled the burning van away from the duplex. The fire service is very thankful he helped and believe he saved the building from significant damage, but they don’t recommend anyone else taking the same risk.

“We were lucky she had nothing in the vehicle, but some people carry a lot of weird stuff in vehicles and the explosion potential is huge,” MD of Regional Fire Services fire chief Joe Bruyere said. “Obviously burns could happen, but also inhalation of the bad chemicals… After he pulled it away the video showed that [flames had engulfed] pretty much the entire vehicle. So a five-minutes difference would have been a totally different story.”

David simply did what he thought was right.

“A couple of guys asked me from work, like, ‘why would you do that?’” David said. “Why wouldn’t I? I would hope somebody would do the same thing for me.”

The cause of the vehicle fire is still under investigation.

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