Wednesday, November 2, 2022

A heroic survey crew gives new meaning to roadside assistance

By Angela Cochran

When friends talk about putting out fires at work, usually they mean metaphorically. For one of our survey crews this past month, it was very much in the literal sense.

Just before 11 a.m. on Oct. 12, Jeff Karnes and Garth Gavette were doing routine survey work on State Route 507 in Yelm when they suddenly found themselves in the middle of a brush fire. Jeff was operating the survey equipment and Garth was recording the information few hundred feet away from him. Jeff looked down to type a code into his data collector machine and when he looked back up, he thought Garth was moving a little strangely.

"I saw Garth kind of stomping and looking like he was dancing around, and then I saw the flames," Jeff said.

Jeff Karnes and Garth Gavette were doing survey work in Yelm when brush fires broke out around them, and they took action to rescue livestock and prevent the fire from spreading to a nearby residence.

He grabbed the fire extinguisher and started spraying. That's when they noticed three or four more fires breaking out all around them and they called the fire department. The dry conditions made it easy for the fire to quickly spread towards the neighboring property and some cows. Jeff's first thought was to notify the property owner but no one was home.

They jumped into action again and herded the cows into an adjoining field away from the fire. At the same time, they noticed the fire was also moving toward a horse shed. They found a garden hose and soaked the shed and surrounding grass to keep the fire away. Then firefighters arrived to take over for them.

One of the brush fires that broke out in Yelm as two of our surveyors were working near the highway. Their actions helped save livestock and a nearby residence.

The cause of the fire is unknown. Sometimes they can be caused by something as simple as ashes from a stray cigarette or sparks from chains dragging behind a passing vehicle.

This amazing story reminds us just how tied to the community our roadworkers are. Many of them live in the same communities they work and are deeply committed to helping keep those areas safe, as Jeff and Garth's actions show. We are so grateful that they sprang into action to help a neighbor. They don't do this kind of work for recognition, but the best way to say thanks to them or any of our road workers is by being alert, slowing down, being patient and giving them room to do their job. Help get them home safely.

Great job Jeff and Garth, we're incredibly proud of you and your actions!