SACRAMENTO COUNTY (CBS13) – An off-duty El Dorado County fire captain is being credited with saving a man who was trapped inside a burning vehicle.
“It was absolutely the right place at the right time,” said Capt. Jacob Poganski with the El Dorado County Fire Department.
Jacob Poganski was driving home from dinner with his wife last Sunday night along Interstate 80 near Antelope Road in Sacramento C
ounty when they saw that a Ford Explorer SUV had just crashed into the center divider.
“We knew that it could be a life-threatening situation,” said Poganski.
The impact was so severe that it bent the metal guardrail and sent debris across several lanes of traffic.
“As we approached the driver-side window we noticed there was a person slumped over the wheel appearing motionless,” said Poganski.
As Poganski tried to pry the door open, a fire started under the car’s hood. Poganski’s wife called 911 – and rescue crews were on their way.
“I have an SUV versus the center divide on fire, the party still inside the vehicle,” said Jacob.
Then, within seconds, the situation grew much more serious.
“When we were pulling the patient out of the vehicle itself there was fire coming through the dashboard and the floorboard section of the vehicle,” said Poganski.
Poganski has been a firefighter for 20 years and has responded to dozens of car fires – but this time he was off-duty – wearing shorts and sandals – with no safety gear.
“This was certainly a case where getting in there without the equipment was necessary,” he said. “By the time that the public safety personnel arrived there was fire not only coming out of the engine compartment where it started but also through all the windows in the passenger compartment. I believe that had we not stopped, he definitely would have died in the accident.”
Poganski says the man regained consciousness after being pulled to safety. Medics say the man was not seriously injured and refused transport to the hospital.
Many people are now calling Poganski and the others that stopped to help heroes for putting their lives on the line for a stranger.
“If I see something — a situation where I can stop and make a difference — I absolutely will,” he said.