Rebecca Welch saved Bruce C. and Paula E. Hagemeyer from burning, Winthrop, Washington, July 10, 2001. In the face of a spreading forest fire, Hagemeyer, 53, and his wife, 50, were attempting to flee the narrow Chewuch River Canyon where they had been camping. They met up with a crew of forest service firefighters, who informed them that the fire had crossed the canyon’s only access road, trapping both them and the firefighters. Fire conditions at the scene soon intensified rapidly, with falling embers and ash preceding a rolling wave of extreme heat, fire, smoke, and fire-induced winds estimated at 50 m.p.h. As the firefighters deployed their personal shelters, Hagemeyer and his wife approached one of them, Ms. Welch, 22, and sought to share her protection. Forfeiting space, Ms. Welch took refuge with the couple in the one-person shelter, where over the course of 15 minutes they waited out the fire’s passage. On getting clearance, they went to the nearby river, where they awaited evacuation by rescue personnel. Hagemeyer and his wife were treated at the hospital for burns and smoke inhalation, and Ms. Welch required treatment for second-degree burns to the right side of her body. She recovered. Four of the firefighters died in their shelters at the scene.
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