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Marines notice car burning on side of road, take break from training to put it out

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MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. — As the nation’s force in readiness Marines are always ready to answer the call to fight, even when they least expect it. Expeditionary firefighting and rescue Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 372 were traveling from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona to Landing Field Stoval when they came across a car on fire near exit 36 on U.S. Interstate 8, Oct. 7, 2016. Due to their swift actions, the fire was quickly controlled, with no injuries reported.

EFR Marines were scheduled to provide crash fire and rescue support at an auxiliary landing exercise for C-130 aircraft at Stoval Airfield, located approximately 50 miles east of Yuma. While traveling eastbound on I-8, Cpl. Michael Molini, crash fire and rescue specialist, MWSS-372, noticed a compact car bellowing smoke on the westbound side of the interstate near exit 36. He immediately halted the convoy on the shoulder of the freeway and determined that the fire was coming from underneath the car’s hood.

Molini implemented the incident control system and assumed the role of incident commander. Sgt. Zagros Dawoudi, logistics vehicle system replacement MKR16 vehicle operator, MWSS-372, exited his vehicle and began to provide traffic control for the EFR Marines, jumping the median to control westbound traffic. Calmly assessing the situation, Molini called for Pfc. Omar Rodriguez, crash fire and rescue specialist, MWSS-372, to use a handheld Purple-K Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher on the burning car. However, he realized that the fire was spreading too fast, minimizing the extinguisher’s effectiveness.

Rodriguez joined Dawoudi in blocking traffic on both sides of I-8, while Molini instructed affected personnel and bystanders to move away to a safe distance and out of any immediate danger, thus giving the EFR Marines room to maneuver.

Molini directed his crew to unload a P-19 Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Truck, a first response vehicle, designed to rapidly extinguish aircraft fires, from the M870 semitrailer being pulled by Dawoudi’s MKR16.

The P-19 EFR crewmen donned protective firefighting gear and turned on their communication system, while Molini, the P-19 crew chief, drove the P-19 into position upwind of the car as it was now completely engulfed in flames. Lance Cpl. Reece Gembel, crash fire and rescue specialist, MWSS-372, manned the roof turret while Molini engaged the pump, pouring foam onto the car in order to smother the fire.

After 90 percent of the fire was extinguished, Lance Corporal James Strickland, crash fire and rescue specialist, MWSS-372, ran out the hand line at a 45-degree angle to the car and began to fight the remaining spot fires located around the engine block.

Shortly thereafter, volunteers with the Wellton Fire Department and local sheriffs arrived on scene, and joined the effort to put out the fire and control the area. Strickland assisted the local firefighters, guiding them around the scene.

Molini transferred command to Mark Rivera, fire chief, Wellton Fire Department, who then directed the local firefighters and EFR Marines in salvage operations. Once all operations had been halted, Molini directed his Marines to load their gear back onto the vehicles, and took accountability for all Marines and EFR gear. The Marines departed the scene, continuing on to their original objective at Auxiliary Airfield Stoval in order to complete their training mission.

“This is exactly what we train them to be able to do,” said Capt. Kevin Doherty, company commander, MWSS-372. “They are emergency responders first and foremost. The fact that they recognized what was going on and did exactly what they were trained to do, it’s awesome.”

By Cpl. Levi Schultz

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