On May 26, 2009, Yosemite National Park Ranger Dan Abbe was flagged down by park visitors on his way to work in Yosemite Valley. Abbe was traveling on the Wawona Road and entered the pullout about 2.5 miles south of the Wawona Tunnel. He was informed that there was a vehicle over the side of the road and it was on fire.
The visitors told Ranger Abbe that there were people in the vehicle. He rushed to the vehicle, about 30′ below the road surface and saw a full sized pickup truck resting on its side with an upright travel trailer behind it. Abbe also noticed that there was a fire in the engine compartment of the truck as he attempted to extricate the two park visitors from the truck. After trying to open the doors, he was able to help the visitors exit the truck and he escorted them downhill and away from the truck and trailer.
The visitors told Ranger Abbe that the truck was filled with 70 gallons of gasoline, they had an extra 50 gallon gas container, and the trailer had two full propane tanks. He then took the visitors through thick brush further away from the vehicle and back up to the roadway. At this point, he noticed the passenger compartment was filling with smoke and he heard crackling noises. Within minutes, the truck and trailer were fully engulfed in flames and a fire, about 1/4 of an acre, had started.
The fire was suppressed and Ranger Abbe and the park visitors were transported to the Yosemite Medical Clinic. They were all treated for smoke inhalation and released. The truck and trailer were a total loss.
In honor of his bravery, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar presented Abbe and several other park service employees with the prestigious Department of the Interior Valor Awards and the Citizen’s Awards for Bravery at a ceremony in last week Washington, D.C. last week.