Firehouse.com is sharing in-depth stories from several of the 2013 Firehouse Heroism Award winners. Check back for additional profiles and find the full list of 2013 award winners here.
Jonathon Dixon knows that a higher power was with him when he pulled a woman from a burning car that had wrecked.
Dixon, who is a firefighter with the St. George Fire Protection District No. 2, in Baton Rouge, La., had just finished a 24-hour shift at about 7 a.m. on Jan. 2, 2013 and was headed to his second job in construction when he spotted something that wasn’t right.
“I had just stopped to pick up a biscuit at a convenience store and as I was pulling out, I noticed an 18-wheeler kind of pulled over with a lot of smoke around it,” said Dixon, adding that it was way too much smoke for just brakes locking up, a problem that happens sometimes with trailers.
As he was heading out on Magnolia Bridge Road in Central City, he saw a car wedged under the truck from an apparent collision and the car was on fire – the source of all the smoke.
“That’s when all my training just kicked into high gear,” Dixon said. “I asked if anyone had seen anyone get out of the car. Nobody saw anyone get out.”
The engine was racing and Dixon knew there had to be a reason for that – probably a person trapped inside.
“I went up to the car to look in and because the low visibility, I couldn’t tell if anyone was in the car or not,” Dixon said. “I tried the door and nothing. You always have to try before you pry, but it was locked.”
The vehicle, which appeared to have traveled parallel to the dump bodied semi-truck and then run under it, was pinned under the trailer on the driver’s side.
“I wasn’t going to go under the truck because I didn’t know what I had,” Dixon said, noting that he tried in vain to break the windows with his shoes.
Shortly after, a Central City police officer showed up on the scene with a fire extinguisher and tried, unsuccessfully, to put out the now growing fire that was consuming the engine compartment.
“I told him to forget about the fire, that we had to try to get inside and get people out,” Dixon said, convinced that there was someone inside, but not knowing for sure.
Dixon took the extinguisher from the officer and smashed a passenger side window on the small, four-door red sedan.
“I got inside and I could see someone sitting in the driver’s seat,” Dixon said, noting the smoke was getting heavy as the fire advanced to the passenger’s compartment. “I grabbed her shoulder and she kind of turned her head toward me.”
With no protective gear, or breathing apparatus available, Dixon backed out of the car, pulled off his flannel shirt, gulped in a few breaths of air and dove back into to the burning vehicle.
“I put my shirt over her to protect her from the smoke,” Dixon said, noting that the woman was stuck under the dashboard and not easily removed.
As he was trying to get the woman out, a Louisiana state trooper, who happened to be a friend of Dixon, arrived. The trooper tried to put the fire out with his cruiser’s extinguisher, with little effect. Dixon noticed the fire was breeching the firewall and rapidly making its way to the passenger compartment.
A decision was made to do a rapid extrication and with the assistance of the trooper and the officer, Dixon got the woman out of the car. Witnesses say the car erupted into a fireball shortly after.
Dixon, who is also an EMT, provided some basic care while awaiting responders’ arrival. The woman, who was in her 40s, suffered smoke inhalation and made a full recovery.
“God definitely had us all in His hand on that one,” Dixon said, adding he’s a humble person and doesn’t relish all the attention and awards, including a Firehouse Heroism Award, he’s received.
“I didn’t do it all myself,” Dixon said, noting that not only did the police officers help, he knows God was watching over them all.