Oak Bay firefighter battles blaze while on vacation

Roadtrip through Oregon proves eventful for local family

Christine van Reeuwyk/Oak Bay News Oak Bay firefighter Greg Swan is pleased his skills honed with the local fire department came in handy on the return from a family vacation.

Christine van Reeuwyk/Oak Bay News Oak Bay firefighter Greg Swan is pleased his skills honed with the local fire department came in handy on the return from a family vacation.

The return home was as eventful as the trip to Disneyland for one Oak Bay firefighter and his family.

Lindsay Swan was at the wheel Saturday afternoon as the family headed for Canada along the I-5 freeway, on day two of a three-day drive home, firefighter husband Greg Swan sitting shotgun and their two young boys in the back.

“We were driving north on the I-5 just on the outskirts of Medford, Ore. and came across a car that had gone off the road and into a tree,” Greg said. “The dust was settling and a couple people were running down the shoulder. My wife stopped the car.”

He grabbed the fire extinguisher and first aid kit packed in the back of the car while Lindsay called 9-1-1.

“I could see flames in the engine compartment,” Greg said. “Three or four people were trying to get the driver out. The flames were keeping them away so I knocked it down with my extinguisher.”

The 83-year-old driver, who Medford Fire later reported had broken bones in his left thigh and lower leg, was still stuck, and it took a second round with the extinguisher before the passersby could free the driver.

“After that the car was fully engulfed in flames and tires were exploding … It was a save. It could have been a lot worse,” Lindsay said.

“It was a good thing Greg was there and had the expertise. He’s so calm in a situation like that.”

They took the driver a safe distance from the fire and were performing first aid when Medford Fire and Rescue, Oregon State Police and EMS arrived.

“It was a pretty harrowing experience for all of us,” Greg said. “The boys were very talkative for the next couple hours.”

Both parents were slightly concerned for the state of Charlie, 3, and Thomas, 6, but a healthy respect for their dad’s career and deep knowledge of fire safety made it easer for them to comprehend.

“They’re so into Greg being a firefighter that they’re all over fire safety,” Lindsay said.

“I was worried it would be traumatic for them.”

She recalls six-year-old Thomas saying: “There’s water dripping out of my eyes because I’m a little worried about that man.”

They later learned two dogs perished in the crash, and the man was reported in critical condition.

“I’m just glad I was prepared and was able to help out. If I hadn’t had that extinguisher I don’t think we would have gotten him out, the fire was starting to come through the floorboards at his feet,” Greg said.

“Having the training and being there at the right time and able to effect a positive outcome is a good feeling for a firefighter.”