By: James HowellStaff Writerjhowell@jeffersonpost.com
September 15, 2012
In an act of bravery, Lansing volunteer fireman Richard Kirrstetter extinguished a flaming Fed/Ex truck Wednesday afternoon on southbound I-77 near Exit 33.
Kirrstetter and his wife Gail were visiting their daughter in Concord when Gail saw a Fed/Ex truck burning severely along a construction zone of I-77. They were around an eighth of a mile behind the truck.
Kirrstetter said he was driving the Lansing Fire Department truck during his trip. “When my wife saw the flames I put on my emergency lights and pulled up right in front of him,” said Kirrstetter.
Kirrstetter had his equipment on hand, so he quickly put on his bunker gear and used his 2.5 gallon water extinguisher to subdue the fire.
“Everyone asks why I always carry my gear around with me,” said Kirrstetter. “It’s so I’m ready for any situation at any time. You never know what types of scenarios you can run into.”
The accident occurred when a mattress fell off of a vehicle in front of the Fed/Ex truck. When the Fed/Ex truck ran over the mattress, the mattress lodged into the underbelly of the trailer in such a way that it caused the vehicle to catch on fire. At their tallest, the flames were 6-8 ft. high, said Kirrstetter.
While Kirrstetter was putting out the fire, other truck drivers pulled over to assist him with their own extinguishers.
“I’m glad I had my bunker gear with me because everyone else trying to help had on short sleeved shirts,” said Kirrstetter.
One of those truck drivers helping Kirrstetter, a man named Jeff Miller, said, “He (Kirrstetter) deserves to be commended for his actions.”
According to Miller, Kirrstetter basically put the fire out by himself. “He was first on the scene and had the fire under control well before the local fire department arrived,” said Miller.
When the Mooresville Fire Dept. arrived on the scene, traffic had already become congested along I-77. The captain briefly talked to Kirrstetter to assess the situation.
By this time, local first responders had the situation well under control. Not wanting to be late for his daughter’s visit, Kirrstetter left his business card for the Mooresville Fire Dept., in case they had any more questions.
According to Miller, the entire incident was over within 30 minutes.
Kirrstetter said the only person who was injured was the Fed/Ex truck driver, who mildly burned his hand trying to turn a handle on his trailer. Kirrstetter said, “The situation could have been much worse, considering the fire broke out on a busy interstate.”