Local hero wins big on reality show | TheUnion.com

Local hero wins big on reality show

Corey Kilroy wasn’t trying to win any awards when he jumped on top of his in-laws house and used a garden hose to ward off flames from last August’s Auburn Fire.

But after his daring act saved the home – and several neighboring homes, too – producers from the ABC reality TV show Wipeout took notice.

Kilroy, formerly of Grass Valley and son of Kilroy’s Towing owner Kent Kilroy, appeared earlier this month on the “America’s Finest” episode of the quirky obstacle course contest. He competed against police officers, soldiers and firemen with their own heroic back stories.

And the 30-year-old from Plumas Lake won.

“I went against a firefighter called ‘Dean the Hot Fireman,'” Kilroy said. “Everyone thought he was going to win, but I smoked him.”

Kilroy, who works for a Sacramento-based pavement company, is not a professional rescuer and is even a bit out of shape by his own admission. But the drive that won him the prize in Wipeout was in full force that fateful Aug. 30, 2009.

“My in-laws live in Auburn, but they were at our house when we got a call from my sister-in-law,” he recalled. “The whole neighborhood had burned down.”

By the time the family drove down and arrived at the house, it was one of just a few patches of neighborhood that the fast-moving flames hadn’t touched.

His mother-in-law started breaking down as she watched the inferno from a distance, knowing her dogs were still trapped inside the ring of fire.

Kilroy couldn’t just stand there.

“I snuck through the fire break,” he said. “I wanted to see if the dogs were still there.”

They were, so he pulled them out. And seeing the house could still be saved and firefighters were elsewhere, he climbed to the roof and started defending the home with a garden hose.

“Almost every house in neighborhood was on fire, and the one next door was going to catch fire,” he said.

When the smoke cleared, 60 structures had burned down, but five houses Kilroy defended remained standing. It earned him an interview with News 10, and Wipeout producers seized upon the report to locate Kilroy for their heroes special.

He competed under the nickname “Hometown Hero.”

After taxes, the winnings aren’t huge, Kilroy said. He plans to put the money toward home improvement projects and give some to his four children. Wipeout happened to be their favorite show even before their dad was a contestant.

For Kilroy, the real reward was the experience.

“It was more exciting to show my friends and family,” Kilroy said. “The $50,000 won’t last forever, but the memories will.”

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail mrindels@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4247.

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