Hawaiʻi Wildfires responder saves mower operator from fire
Curt Larsen, quality assurance supervisor, on Maui for the Hawai‘i Wildfires Recovery mission, prevented a tractor from catching fire on Maui, Hawai‘i , Jan. 24. Larsen is from St. Paul District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers where he works as a head lockman. (Photo Credit: Brannen Parrish) VIEW ORIGINAL

A quality assurance supervisor, assisting the Hawaiʻi Wildfires Recovery mission rescued a man from a burning tractor and helped prevent a brush fire from spreading on Maui, Jan. 24.

Curt Larsen, who is from the St. Paul District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was traveling on North Kihei Rd., to check on an employee working at the recycling location.

Larsen noticed a tractor with a mower attachment parked in a pull off area just off the road. Mowing tractors are a common sight for motorists, but the fire on the beneath the mower caught his attention as he passed.

“By the time I turned around, and got into the spot there, the rear tractor tire was on fire and then the brush caught fire,” said Larsen.

Larsen phoned 911 and began informing the dispatcher. He then noticed two feet in the cab.

“I told the dispatcher, ʻThere's somebody in there.ʻ so she said, ʻGo get them out.ʻ” Larsen recounted.

Larsen honked his car's horn but the driver didn't respond.

“I went and pounded on the door and then he woke up. He was startled and he went to open up the door but he was going to step out into the fire so I yelled, ʻNo, no stay in there, drive the tractor forward to get it out of the fire,ʻ” said Larsen.

The rotation of the tire extinguished most of the flames on the tire. Larsen and the operator then began dousing the remaining fire on the tire with bottled water but the brush and grass were still alight.

Maui County Fire Department arrived and within a few minutes and put out the remaining brush fire.

Larsen said the brush fire covered an area approximately 12 foot by 20 foot and the tractor would likely have been engulfed in flames within minutes.

Larsen, who works as a head lockman in St. Paul District, said his work there and defensive driver training have helped him maintain situational awareness.

“Back home on the river we have to do water rescues all the time so its just a natural instinct, and defensive driving teaches you how to keep on looking. I did my double take and saw it, and you just have to respond,” he said.

Larsen has deployed to numerous emergency response missions. Though this is his first mission working in debris, he's assisted with emergency response missions in Florida, Puerto Rico, Louisiana and Mississippi.

“I enjoy doing it,” Larsen said. “It's always important to help someone else. It makes my heart feel joy and it brings joy to somebody else.”