A Hellsgate firefighter used the Jaws of Life to stop a gushing gas line spewing gas and flames 20 feet under a trailer all while being repeatedly jolted by electrical shocks Friday morning.
Nearby fire crews pushed the trailer fire back long enough for the firefighter to clamp the line and stop the blaze. The firefighter was not injured even though he suffered several electrical shocks.
The fire started around 2 a.m., after a truck plowed into the side of a trailer, knocking over a propane gas line in Star Valley. Firefighters dipped into their bag of tricks while the police department wrestled with an injured passenger and another man who was arrested in connection with the incident.
On Feb. 27, the Payson Police Department and Hellsgate Fire Department received calls that a full-size pickup truck had crashed into a trailer in the 150 block of South Moonlight Drive, behind ProBuild, authorities said.
When firefighters arrived, they found the pickup and an unoccupied home engulfed in flames, but the occupants of the truck had escaped.
Nickolas Aquirre, 23, of Star Valley was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated assault, criminal damage and leaving the scene of an injury accident, said Sgt. Rod Mamero.
Native Air airlifted the adult passenger of the truck, whose name is being withheld pending further investigation, to a Scottsdale hospital. Mamero said the passenger has not been charged.
“Where the truck impacted the trailer, it broke off the gas station main and knocked over the power service pedestal,” said Captain John Wisner.
Because the electrical and gas meters were both struck, gas was spewing into the air and shooting flames 20 feet from under the trailer while the electricity had electrified the truck and home.
Firefighters could not wait until a SemStream Arizona Propane crew arrived to shut the line down because flames were spreading quickly, so they decided to push the fire back by spraying the area with several hoses to clear the area long enough for a firefighter to turn the line off manually.
Firefighter Matt Highstreet used the Jaws of Life to pinch the metal gas pipe shut but it took Highstreet several attempts because the line would reignite and fuel the fire.
“In this process the firefighter experienced electrical shocks,” Wisner said since “the pickup and trailer were both electrified because the truck was on top of the electrical service box.”
Highstreet was uninjured by the shocks, and was reportedly “more startled than anything,” Wisner said.
Once the line was clamped, firefighters quickly put the fire out around 2:30 a.m.
“It was a challenging fire,” Wisner said. “We had to use all our training.”
By 2:45 a.m., a crew from SemStream had arrived on scene and was digging down to the line, 30 feet away from the trailer, to secure it.
By 3:15, APS arrived and had to shut down power to the entire neighborhood.
“APS worked on scene till 6:40 a.m. until the power to the area was back on,” Wisner said.
Wisner said it appeared no one was living in the trailer. Detective Matt Van Camp said Monday he was still trying to locate an owner, but it may take a few days because the trailer was rented.
The Payson and Houston Mesa Fire Departments assisted Hellsgate with the fire, and Beaver Valley and Christopher Kohl’s Fire Departments were on standby.
Aquirre was booked into the Gila County Jail in Payson. Mamero said he could give no further information about the incident because the investigation is ongoing.