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Special Commendation Honors Workers Quick Action
0731 Award
Recognized for quick action and bravery were, front row from left, Rudy Cervantes, Ray Pimentel, Ken Plaster, Rigo Ramos. Back row, Mayor Richard OBrien, honorees Michael Riddell, Justin Smith, and Juan Vigil were all presented with a Certificate of Commendation for their bravery during a fire on May 10, 2013. Missing from photo is Curtis Myer. VIRGINIA STILL/The News

It was a special evening on Monday, July 22 at the Riverbank City Council meeting as the council members recognized a number of city employees for their bravery and service to the City of Riverbank.

Rudy Cervantes, Curtis Myer, Ray Pimentel, Ken Plaster, Rigo Ramos, Michael Riddell, Justin Smith, and Juan Vigil were all awarded a Certificate of Commendation, presented to them by Mayor Richard O’Brien. The commendation came for quick action in connection with a fire near the city’s Public Works Yard in late spring.

“It’s always good to have people that you know that can cover for you and fires especially this time of year are very unpredictable,” said O’Brien. “You guys took great action that did a lot for the city and I want to thank you all personally. Thank you very much.”

With that said, the Mayor presented the certificate to each person in attendance and thanked them again.

On May 10 a small grass fire started next to a tree in an area below where the Public Works Department is located. Officials believe the fire was either started by someone playing with matches or smoking.

Michael Riddell, Deputy Development Services Director Operations, was in his office like any normal Friday working on reports when Ray Pimentel and Rudy Cervantes entered his office to inform him that a small grass fire had started in the lowland.

They went down to take a look and assess the situation of the fire. The wind was blowing the fire away from their vicinity. However, they decided to keep an eye on the fire as they waited for the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Department to arrive.

Then the wind shifted and started blowing the fire in their direction. At the Corp Yard premises there is a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Facility and that is something that instantly worried everyone the most.

Fortunately, officials said, they had a Vactor combo unit truck that is a vacuum and a high pressure cleaner for sewer lines on hand. The truck has a small hose rail and a large hose rail and a large pump that holds 1500 gallons of water on it. The pump has the capability of pumping out 80 gallons of water per minute under high pressure.

Riddell had the workers get the truck and position it where they could use both hoses. In the middle of getting the truck and putting it into position the fire progressed very quickly.

“I literally stood there and saw this fire coming and I know what that CNG is. I know what it is capable of,” said Riddell. “To myself I kind of thought, do I stay or do I run?”

Then he realized that running wouldn’t do them any good because they wouldn’t be able to get far enough away by the time the fire would reach the CNG.

“If that thing were to blow up it would take out a good three or four block area,” said Riddell. “So at that point I made the conscious decision to stay and fight.”

The fire started racing dangerously close to the CNG area. So the crew focused their attention on the gas meter and finally extinguished the blaze there. Then they moved to the backside of the property and continued the fight.

They were finally able to put out the portion of the fire that was a threat to them. By this time, the fire department personnel arrived and had the fire to contend with at the bottom of the valley. The fire was blazing through a trailer and then started on a truck. There were approximately six to eight fire trucks on scene battling the blaze and finally they knocked it down successfully.

“We have a great group of people working here,” added Riddell. “They never hesitated and stepped up to do what needed to be done.”

For that, the mayor and the entire city council offered thanks and praise.