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Sergeant duo extinguishes potentially deadly fire

Staff Sgt. Eric Escobar, 614th Air and Space Operations Center space battle manager, and Staff Sgt. John Crowley, 9th Space Operations Squadron orbital protection duty technician, recently extinguished a vehicle fire, potentially saving the lives of two individuals, after departing the Santa Maria gate and heading northbound on Cabrillo Highway, July 18. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

Staff Sgt. Eric Escobar, 614th Air and Space Operations Center space battle manager, and Staff Sgt. John Crowley, 9th Space Operations Squadron orbital protection duty technician, recently extinguished a vehicle fire, potentially saving the lives of two individuals, after departing the Santa Maria gate and heading northbound on Cabrillo Highway, July 18. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Two staff sergeants recently extinguished a vehicle fire, potentially saving the lives of two individuals, after departing the Santa Maria gate and heading northbound on Cabrillo Highway, July 18.

Heading home after his shift, Staff Sgt. John Crowley, 9th Space Operations Squadron orbital protection duty technician, witnessed smoke billowing from a parked car and quickly reacted.

"I saw a car along the highway with smoke coming out and the hood open," said Crowley. "I pulled over and grabbed the fire extinguisher from under my seat and started running toward the vehicle."

Heading home from the same shift, friend and co-worker of Crowley, Staff Sgt. Eric Escobar, 614th Air and Space Operations Center space battle manager, saw the scene unfold in front of him and decided to assist.

"I saw him running toward the flaming car and I couldn't let him do it alone," said Escobar. "I quickly pulled over and joined him."

In near perfect coordination, Crowley began extinguishing the flames, while Escobar simultaneously escorted the driver and passenger safely away from the dangerous vehicle.

"As we ran up we saw a female sitting in the passenger seat and a male driver was looking under the hood," said Crowley. "That's when both Sgt. Escobar and I started yelling for them to get away from the car because it's on fire. As we approached, I pulled the pin to the extinguisher, crawled underneath the car and started spraying and praying, to douse the flames. In the meantime Escobar got the two individuals, and their possessions, a safe distance away."

By this time a third co-worker had witnessed the scene unfold, while driving past, and decided to intervene.

"I was behind (Escobar) and saw the flames," said Thomas Fee, 614th AOC contractor. "However, I wasn't able to pull-over so I went down the road a ways, made a U-turn and joined up with them. By that time, Sgt. Crowley had already used his fire extinguisher to douse the flames, and (Escobar) had gotten the civilians a safe distance away. So I got out and assisted (Escobar) with redirecting traffic away from the scene."

Although the driver and passenger of the vehicle remained unharmed, the situation could have turned deadly without the quick-thinking of those involved.

"Afterward, the driver told the police he heard a loud boom and thought it was a blow out," said Escobar. "All he could see was smoke because the flames were underneath the vehicle. That's why he was looking under the hood. Had we not stopped and intervened, I imagine the entire car would have completely gone up in flames."

Although their bravery was evident, Crowley and Escobar remain humble and attribute their actions to Air Force training.

"I didn't really think about anything other than helping those in need," said Escobar. "I knew it was dangerous, but I remembered the wingman concept and I wasn't going to let Crowley face the situation on his own."

Fee commends the two sergeants' initiative and courage and hopes to recognize them for a job well done.

"I'm really proud of these guys because lots of cars went by at the time and no one stopped to help," said Fee. "The driver was not aware his car was on fire, so if they hadn't stopped, someone would have been seriously injured, or killed. They're heroes and I want them to be recognized for it."