Two off-duty members of the Prince George's County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department recently came upon an automobile crash with entrapment and fire.
On Wednesday, July 5, 2006, two instructors from the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Training Academy, Fire Lieutenant Denise Dickens and Curriculum Specialist Christine Haber, had just left the Fire/EMS Training Academy for the day and were riding together on the way home.
At about 4:45 PM they came across a single vehicle crash on Route 301 just past Frank Tippet Road in Cheltenham. Without hesitation, they immediately stopped to render aid. A quick assessment of the crash site determined that a female was critically injured and unconscious, trapped inside of her vehicle, and the engine compartment was smoking.
As Chris Haber contacted 911 on her cell phone, Fire Lt Dickens assessed the patient who was now becoming conscious and aware of her situation. Within seconds the engine compartment burst into flames. Without the tools required to extricate the patient and knowing that Fire and EMS assistance was still minutes away, Lt. Dickens and Chris Haber put their training skills into actions and quickly developed a plan.
Fire Lt. Dickens advised Chris Haber and civilian bystanders that fire extinguishers were needed immediately. Chris Haber and by-standers proceeded to stop all traffic in the south and north bound lanes of Route 301 and asked motorists if they had fire extinguishers in their vehicles.
As the fire extinguishers were commandeered they were immediately ushered to Fire Lt Dickens who dispensed their contents to keep the fire in check and away from the trapped victim. The teamwork of Chris Haber and civilians resulted in 12 fire extinguishers that were used by Fire Lt. Dickens until fire/EMS apparatus arrived on the scene six minutes later.
Certainly, had it not been for the quick innovative thinking and heroic actions of Fire Lt. Dickens, Chris Haber and the many civilians that offered help the outcome of this situation could have been tragic.
The injured female, in her 60's, was extricated from her vehicle and flown to an area trauma center where she is expected to recover from her injuries. Fire Chief Lawrence H. Sedgwick, Jr. stated, "The actions of Lt Dickens and Curriculum Specialist Haber are certainly commendable and held within the highest tradition of the fire service. I feel confident that through their assistance and quick thinking a life has been saved."