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Kern Valley Man Thanks KCFD Fire Crew for Saving Family

Posted at 5:25 PM, Jul 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-07 11:28:01-04

South Lake resident, John Welcher, has lived in Kern River Valley on and off his entire life, and has never witnessed anything as severe as the Erskine Fire.

Reflecting back on that day, he recalls being advised to prepare for the worst.

They told him, "Get your kids, get your wife, get your family, get in the car and drive East toward Ridgecrest," said Welcher.

Before heading that way, he stopped to make sure his parents and brother would be able to make the drive to Ridgecrest safely.

Welcher will never forget that drive to his parents.

He remembers, "downed power lines, exploding propane tanks, people running everywhere, animals running everywhere, vehicles, cars, confusion...emergency rescue vehicles, regular people just trying to get out of here," said Welcher. 

Upon arrival, he remembers his Mom trying to gather valuables, such as family portraits to load into her car. Meanwhile, his father was trying to save his bedridden son, who, in recent years, had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. 

"He's sitting on the edge of his bed wanting to walk, trying to wheel himself to walk, but he couldn't walk," recalled Welch.

At this point, Welch was determined to save his brother from the flames.

"I was going to get a bed sheet around him. I was just going to use it as a harness, and I was just going to drag him out," said Welch.

Just as he planned to execute his plan, emergency crews arrived to his parents home.

"I looked up and called out on the name of Jesus before I went in and as soon as I did that, here comes Engine 74 through the flames and through the smoke," Welcher said.

Saving his brother, Randy, was difficult and the fire crew had no choice but to use nontraditional methods due to his size and the size of the room.

"Firefighter Ryder White, my fireman attempted a fireman's carry, but because of the size of the space, we just went and put him on his shoulders. It wasn't going to work," said Kern County Fire Department Captain Tim Nicoll.

The Welcher family home was perished in the Erskine fire, but they're just thankful to be alive. They give all thanks to KCFD Engine 74.

With the adrenaline rush, the 3-man crew was able to save the estimated 300 lb. man. against all odds.

"Visibility was poor. The property directly behind us was on fire. The propane tank was venting. And that was a concern of ours. And we were able to fortunately get in there. It was a matter of minutes...we barely made it through here in time," said Captain Nicoll.