Firefighter's Quick Decision To Save Two Homes Lands Him In Hot Water

Wednesday, August 22nd 2012, 11:01 pm
By: Tess Maune

A Green Country firefighter was suspended after saving two homes from burning down.

Randy Woodward was disciplined for letting a volunteer firefighter drive a city-owned flatbed fire truck to help fight off a grass fire that was threatening his home.

That volunteer said the decision saved both his home and the homes of his neighbors.

A field of black grass stretches as far as the eye can see at Jerel Long's home, which he says he came dangerously close to losing.

"We had tornadoes - little fire just swirling, just zipping down the pasture - because the wind was blowin' so hard." Long said.

Long called 911, and then grabbed his water hoses and got ready fight off the fire himself.

He lives about 10 miles outside of town, so he knew it would take some time for help to arrive.

First on the scene was Coweta fire captain Randy Woodward.

Woodward's daughter, who didn't want to go on camera, said their staff was stretched to the limit that day, so when her father made it to Long's house, he was alone in a grass truck.

Long said a second fire truck was about 10 minutes behind, and the fire was moving so fast, there was no time to waste.

With no other options, Woodward hollered for Long, a volunteer fireman himself, to drive, while Woodward took care of the rest.

"He jumped on the back, rolled down both windows of the truck, so we'd have good communication, and started driving up and down the fire line, you know, just around the barn here, just to save the barn," Long said.

Long is convinced if it weren't for Woodward's quick decision, he'd be homeless.

"Randy's a hero, Randy saved the barn, Randy saved our home—he saved the neighbor's home," Long said.

Even so, Woodward was suspended for one day without pay, because he violated a city policy by letting Long get behind the wheel.

But for Long, he said there was no other choice—it was either break the rule, or watch his home go up in flames.

"If he would have followed the policy, we would have been in trouble," Long said. "We would have been sifting through ashes."

The Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma has stepped in to help Woodward appeal his suspension.

Woodward's daughter said it's not about the money, but her father shouldn't be punished for saving two homes.

I reached out to Coweta's fire chief and city manager and neither could comment.