Richard L. Poppe rescued Omer Rue C. Peneton from burning, Bridgeport, Ilinois, October 9, 1961. Peneton, 58, equipment operator, and five other workmen were repairing a leaking pipe leading from an oil storage tank which was located in an area 300 feet in diameter surrounded by an earthen dike. The tank contained approximately 5,200 barrels of crude oil. Poppe, 34, superintendent of transportation, arrived and joined the men inside the enclosure, where the leaking oil had saturated much of the area. A flash of flames briefly appeared atop the oil-soaked ground near the men, and they started running. Flames immediately reappeared and began to spread swiftly throughout the enclosure. Poppe, his boots and one trouser leg covered with oil, avoided the flames as he ran beyond the dike without being burned. He then heard Peneton call for help and saw him, covered with flames, fall atop the dike, which was three feet wide. Shouting to Peneton to roll on the ground, which he did, Poppe ran back to Peneton. Flames 15 to 40 feet high then burned around the tank. Lesser flames were within 15 feet of Peneton and Poppe and spreading rapidly toward them. Poppe beat at the flames on Peneton, sustaining burns to his hands. He then used his arms, covered by his jacket, to beat at the flames. Peneton continued rolling, and nearly all of his clothing came off. Poppe’s trouser leg caught fire, and he beat out the flames with his arms. He then aided Peneton farther from the tank. Firemen arrived and extinguished the flames. One man had suffered disabling burns, and the four others had burned to death. Peneton, who had suffered burns over nearly all of his body, died three days later. Poppe was hospitalized a month for his burns and was disabled for three additional weeks.
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