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Airman extinguishes Friday the 13th bad luck, saves lives

Tech. Sgt. Shiras Dara, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron Distribution Maintenance Section chief, poses with a fire extinguisher, Nov. 18, 2019, at Dover AFB, Del. Dara used a similar fire extinguisher to put out a vehicle fire and credits his Air Force training for knowing how to properly use a fire extinguisher in a time of need. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mauricio Campino)

Tech. Sgt. Shiras Dara, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron Distribution Maintenance Section chief, poses with a fire extinguisher, Nov. 18, 2019, at Dover AFB, Del. Dara used a similar fire extinguisher to put out a vehicle fire and credits his Air Force training for knowing how to properly use a fire extinguisher in a time of need. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mauricio Campino)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del.-- Tech. Sgt. Shiras Dara remembered being extra cautious the entire day, Sept. 13, 2019.

“It [was] a full moon on Friday the 13th,” said Dara, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron Distribution Maintenance Section chief. “I knew something crazy was going to happen.”

Dara and his friend Thomas Hill, 436th Aerial Port Squadron vehicle control officer, were carpooling after work when they came upon a three-car, rear-end collision at an intersection near Dover AFB, Delaware.

Alarmed, Hill and Dara quickly pulled over their car to help. The two sprang into action as Dara called 911 while Hill began directing traffic away from the accident. Dara then checked on the safety of the passengers from the collision and noticed one of the crashed cars was smoking and leaking fluid. He told the passengers to move away from the vehicles immediately.

“I was scared the car was going to explode, and the only thing I thought was, ‘I need to put this fire out,’” Dara recalled.

As the smoke began to increase in intensity, Dara ran across the highway to a nearby gas station and asked to use their fire extinguisher. By the time he returned to the scene, the car was completely engulfed in flames.

Until that day, Dara had only received instructional training from the Air Force about how to use a fire extinguisher but had never activated one.

“I was operating off of instinct and adrenaline,” said Dara. “It was the first time I had ever used a fire extinguisher, and the only thing I could remember was PASS.”

PASS is an acronym for the four steps of properly using a fire extinguisher:

1. Pull

2. Aim

3. Squeeze

4. Sweep

Hill remembered watching Dara approach the fire, extinguisher in hand.

“As I stood in the street, all I could do was pray that I positioned myself far enough away from the explosion,” said Hill. “[After] 15 seconds of anticipation of an explosion, I looked over my shoulder to see an exhausted Tech. Sgt. Dara, and the car was now only smoking.”

Dara successfully put out the fire before emergency responders arrived, all thanks to his Air Force training and fearless approach to help others.

“I work in vehicle maintenance. We could potentially have a vehicle fire [at any time], so we are trained on fire extinguishers and other safety methods,” said Dara. “The Air Force, from day one, foot-stomps safety, so I was just using the things I’ve learned.”

Hill praised his friend’s selflessness for rushing towards the fire to save the bystanders and prevent a potential three-car explosion.

“After all the help arrived, a passenger came up to Tech. Sgt. Dara with tears in her eyes and gave him a hug and said, ‘Thank you,’” said Hill. “That day he risked his life against his better judgement, to save not only myself but [all] the cars and passengers stopped on the highway – When I pass this location on my drive home daily, I know if it wasn’t for his quick thinking, that night would have been very different.”