Policeman honored for saving lives
The cloud of explosive propane fumes surrounding his neighbors’ home did not dissuade Dave Remillard from helping get the couple out fast.
Seeing the couple within the vapors only made him act quicker. With only seconds remaining before the flames erupted on June 13, the Grass Valley Police sergeant entered the cloud wearing a T-shirt and shorts and pulled them to safety. Seconds later, the fumes exploded in a fireball.
The sergeant was honored recently by the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District with an award presentation recognizing his “heroic acts above and beyond the call of duty.”
“Doing that, you don’t think of the possible consequences,” he said Sunday. “I just went into that mode.”
Remillard was at his Alta Sierra home on Marion Way when he heard the crash of a travel trailer into a propane tank on his next-door neighbors’ property.
His quick thinking most likely saved his neighbors, fire officials said.
“If not for him, there would have been critical injuries, if not death,” said Tim Fike, Nevada County Consolidated chief.
Remillard, a 17-year Grass Valley Police veteran, was in his yard when he heard the first crash. Neighbor Al Dumont had been backing his truck into his driveway when the brakes in the truck went out. The truck bumped into a travel trailer, which then slipped off a parking pad and sheared off a valve to a 500-gallon propane tank, authorities said.
The gas leaked out of the tank and surrounded Dumont’s house. The vapors quickly traveled downhill and encircled another neighbor’s home.
“The whole situation was extreme,” Fike said. “It escalated so fast.”
The fire department was dispatched to a “vehicle accident,” Fike said, and no one knew the severity of the situation. Meanwhile, a misty, gray vapor cloud had enveloped the Dumont home.
“(Propane) was leaking out very quickly,” Remillard said.
Right in the middle of the vapor cloud was Al Dumont and his wife, Ann. The sergeant hollered at them to get out and then walked through the flammable gas cloud to pull them out.
Soon after, a spotter at a wildfire watch tower reported seeing a huge fireball rise about 50 feet into the sky, scorching trees on the way.
“As soon as he got them to higher ground, the whole thing exploded,” Fike said. “It is fortunate no one was killed or injured.”
The fire immediately devoured the Dumonts’ garage, two vehicles and the travel trailer.
The Dumonts declined to comment Monday about the accident and Remillard’s acts to save them.
As soon as Remillard had walked the Dumonts to his home, which is on higher ground, he ran to a second neighbor’s house, which had caught fire when the propane gas was swept downhill. He helped the elderly resident out just as flames reached the sides and back deck.
“I have been in a lot of dangerous situations … but nothing like that,” Remillard said. “It was one of those things that you don’t think about (beforehand).”
Despite being recognized by Nevada County Consolidated, the police sergeant gave credit to the local fire department for controlling the fire quickly.
“To have a fire department so close and so equipped – if they were further away, the damage would have been a lot worse,” he said. “That’s what saved the day.
“It was a great honor to be recognized by the fire department – they have a dangerous job.”
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