Double Duty

Orlando utility workers fight fire with Aquatech combo unit.

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Everyone in the municipal sewer and water industry encounters an emergency situation from time to time. Usually it's a broken water main or a combined sewer overflow, something you're trained to handle. Fighting a fire, however, isn't something the typical sewer technician trains for or expects.

That didn't stop two City of Orlando workers from jumping into action when a citizen's van caught fire on a city street on June 20.

The day had barely begun for Streets and Drainage Department operators Tim Allen and Mike Wilkerson. They were just leaving their office when they noticed smoke rising from the street. When they realized a nearby vehicle was on fire, Allen dropped his cup of coffee and jumped a fence to get to his Aquatech B-15 (Hi-Vac Corp.). Orlando police were already on the scene, but firefighters had not yet arrived.

The duo quickly got their rig out into the street in an effort to lend assistance. Allen stripped the hose off the reel and brought it to the burning van while Wilkerson operated the truck's controls. They dialed down the pressure and began spraying water through the grill and between the windshield and hood. The fire was out less than two minutes later.

Rick Ehle, a project manager with Pat's Pump & Blower, the Orlando-based company that sold the B-15 to the city, said he's never come across a similar incident in his 30 years in the business.

"It's a first," Ehle said. "It was just quick thinking from those guys. I mean, they've basically got a fire truck if you think about it.

"They just did what they thought they needed to do. When they left the office they saw the smoke and there was no fire department there so they thought, 'Well, geez, let's get the truck.' So that's exactly what they did. They went out there and the police were there already but they were standing by and the driver of the vehicle was sitting on the curb watching his vehicle flame, so they just brought the hose over."

When the fire department arrived on the scene, firefighters punched a hole through the hood of the van to make sure the fire was out, but the Streets and Drainage crew already had it under control.

"There was no fire showing, just the residual steam," Ehle said.

Allen and Wilkerson received much-deserved thanks from the police department for their unsolicited assistance.



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