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THE STATE | SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRES

Vintage Firetruck Helps Man Save House

October 31, 2003|Geoffrey Mohan | Times Staff Writer

The last thing that Brent Cashion expected to do with his 1961 Peter Pirsch fire engine was fight a forest fire.

But when he learned of the plight of John Lucas, who was making a stand against the wildfire to save his property in Cedar Glen, Cashion threw some hose on the vintage pumper, filled it with water and headed for the mountains.

Cashion, 44, a Los Angeles County sheriff's sergeant, and his wife, Lynda Denman, who own several old firetrucks, made their way east from their home in Glendora, up the steep road north of San Bernardino and into the depths of Hook Creek Canyon shortly after midnight Thursday morning.

"Linda had to stand on the back of the truck to lift the [downed] wires so the truck could get through," Cashion said. "It looked like a war zone. It was torn up."

When they got to Lucas' property, flames had burned down his garage, a cottage and two houses he owned across the street.

But Lucas had managed to save the longtime home of his late father-in-law, artist Charles Wysocki.

Lucas was surprised to see the couple from Glendora, whom he had never met before, but he welcomed the help.

The three used the old fire engine to douse spot fires and falling embers.

"They're just amazing, amazing people," Lucas said. "Even though things were calm, they were putting themselves in harm's way."

Lucas, a former U.S. Forest Service firefighter, had spent most of Wednesday defending the property with about 3,000 feet of fire hose, some chemical foam and two pumps. When the wildfire approached, he gave up hope that the house could be saved, but he later returned to defend it.

Cashion and Denman had learned about Lucas' situation in a television report late Wednesday.

They brought several hundred hamburger buns and patties and spent Thursday cooking them for firefighters gathered outside a fire station in the cold, gray weather that enveloped Lake Arrowhead.

The firefighters loved the fact that the faded red fire engine with an open cab and gold lettering that reads, "Louisville [Ky.] Fire Department" had joined the battle in the San Bernardino Mountains, Denman said.

"They were all saying, 'We knew they had to dig deep, but they shouldn't have dug this deep,' " she said.

The couple marveled at how Lucas' house had survived the night in an area where as many as 350 others had been lost.

"That house just wasn't meant to burn," Denman said.

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