Joe Kershaw yelled fire, and it was
Seeing a fire in a Tisbury street sweeper, he sounded the alarm
When seven-year-old Joe Kershaw yelled "Fire!" last week, he not only helped prevent someone from being injured, but he also saved the town of Tisbury some money.
Joe spotted flames shooting off the back of a street sweeper driving by his house in Vineyard Haven about 7:30 am on Monday, September 21, and alerted his parents, Kelly and J.T. Kershaw, who were walking ahead of him with his two-year-old brother, Mason.
Joe said when he first glanced at the street sweeper, for a moment he thought maybe the flames were coming from a coal-fired engine, and then quickly realized that didn't make sense. "That's when I saw it was on fire and started yelling," he said. His dad said the flames were shooting about four feet into the air.
After Joe's yells got his mother's attention, she waved at driver Mike Figueiredo. Unaware of the flames behind him, Mr. Figueiredo gave her a friendly wave back. Then he heard Joe, who kept on yelling "Fire." Mr. Figueiredo jumped out of the street sweeper as quickly as he could, without injury.
Mr. Kershaw grabbed a small fire extinguisher from his car, and his wife, a Tisbury police officer, quickly called for the fire department, which arrived within a few minutes and put out the fire.
"We told Joe we're proud of him, because the guy might have kept on driving," Ms. Kershaw said. "We told him he saved a life."
Joe, however, was less impressed with that than he was concerned about being late to school, so his grandfather, George Buckley, quickly drove him to Tisbury School where he attends second grade.
"I was not aware of the young gentleman's actions, until Fred LaPiana mentioned him at the selectmen's meeting the next night," Fire Chief John Schilling said in a phone call last week. "When we arrived, I saw an empty extinguisher on the side of the road, and there was nobody around to take credit. All of the town's emergency departments responded, and the fire was quickly extinguished with minor damage to the sweeper."
Chief Schilling said an oil line broke, and oil that sprayed across the street sweeper's motor ignited.
Other than having to replace some wires that melted, Mr. LaPiana said the street sweeper came through the fire fairly unscathed. "Joe probably saved us some money," he said. "The fire department was spot-on and right on the money in putting out the fire, but Joe probably saved us further damage to the vehicle. The next morning, we turned it on and it started right up."
Although the DPW purchased a new street sweeper for $80,000 several years ago, Mr. LaPiana said the department rebuilt the old sweeper about seven years ago and continues to use it because it does a better job at picking up heavier debris. Mr. LaPiana said the DPW plans to run the old machine, which cost about $140,000 new, "until it dies."
In appreciation of Joe's actions, the day after the street sweeper fire Mr. LaPiana and Assistant Fire Chief Russell Maciel presented him with a toy tow truck like the DPW's and a junior red firefighter's hat when he got home from school.
Despite his firefighting experience, Joe said he would prefer to be a marine biologist when he grows up. He enjoys being a Wolf Scout and is the goalie on his hockey team, the Travel-Mites.