Credit: Paul Towell
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SCE Pilot, Patrolman Team Up to Extinguish Car Fire in Moorpark

The quick action of Paul Towell and Buster Brown helped prevent the fire from spreading to the house.

SCE employees Paul Towell and Buster Brown took quick action to help put out a car fire in Moorpark.

Paul Towell, a Southern California Edison helicopter pilot, was finishing up a patrol of a transmission line in Moorpark when he noticed some smoke nearby.

He and SCE patrolman Buster Brown decided to take a closer look. As they circled over the area, they could see a parked car engulfed in flames. The fire was dangerously close to a garage that was attached to a house.

“We saw how totally engulfed the fire was and we didn’t see any activity to help stop the fire from going to the house,” said Towell. “We thought, maybe we can do something.”

The team called 911 immediately. They also flew over to the nearby fire station to see if the fire department was on its way. They didn’t see any fire trucks. There were also no nearby neighbors in the semi-rural neighborhood.

Towell and Brown, realizing the fire department was still minutes away, took action.

We definitely prevented the garage from catching on fire. Who knows? The house could have been damaged too.”

Paul Towell, SCE Helicopter Pilot

With 25 years as an experienced helicopter pilot, Towell looked for a safe place and landed on the driveway. Brown grabbed the helicopter’s fire extinguisher and ran toward the burning car, helping to put out some of the flames until the chemicals ran out. The car’s air bags exploded.

With the fire still going, Brown decided to grab the house’s water hose and started dousing the burning car and the garage rafters that were now dangerously overheating.

Meanwhile, Towell stayed in the helicopter with the engine running. When the fire department arrived about four minutes later, he was able to safely lift off and continue circling the area.

“I live close by and know the area,” said Brown, who lives about a half-mile away. “Paul is a really good pilot so I said let’s go and I grabbed the extinguisher. The car was gone, but I knew I needed to cool the car down and keep the rafters from catching fire.”

The fire department extinguished the blaze within a few minutes and the house itself did not suffer any damage.

“We definitely prevented the garage from catching on fire,” said Towell. “Who knows? The house could have been damaged too.”

“It was a team thing. Our training kicked in,” said Brown.