Fire extinguishers, courage save lives of occupants caught in Orland truck fire

Orland firefighters work to make sure the fire is out in a pickup truck that crashed on the Castine Road Friday morning. Passers-by used fire extinguishers to remove the occupants of the vehicle. SHARON BRAY/ORLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT
Firefighters work to make sure the fire that engulfed this GMC pickup on the Castine Road Friday morning is fully extinguished. The two occupants of the vehicle were pulled from the burning vehicle by passers-by who stopped to help. SHARON BRAY/ORLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT

ORLAND — Passers-by armed with “fire extinguishers and courage” are credited with saving the lives of two people traveling in a truck that crashed and caught fire on the Castine Road Friday morning.

The Orland Fire Department said on its Facebook page that it was called to the Castine Road shortly after 9 o’clock Friday morning. Chief Bobby Conary said the report came in that the vehicle was on its side, on fire and that victims were inside.

“A gut-wrenching set of words that no firefighter wants to hear,” he said.

Firefighters “arrived to find a fully involved” vehicle fire involving a pickup truck. Conary said the cab and engine compartment were completely engulfed in flames.

Just before arriving on scene, however, firefighters received word that the occupants were out of the vehicle. That, said Conary, prompted a “collective sigh of relief” among the first responders.

The Fire Department said that “quick-acting” passers-by and Maine Department of Transportation employees had already “used portable fire extinguishers to keep the fire at bay while they extracted the occupants.”

“The victims were pulled from the burning vehicle with only seconds to spare,” the department reported.

The action of DOT workers and the other passers-by, the department said, saved the lives of the two occupants — the 36-year-old driver, Wilbur McCaul, and his passenger, Samantha McCullough.

According to a report from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, McCaul broke his leg in the crash and injured his shoulder while McCullough suffered a head injury. Both were taken from the scene by Bucksport Ambulance to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Deputy Brian Archer said in a report that McCaul was headed south on the Castine Road in a 2006 Dodge 1500 pickup truck when he lost control of the vehicle due to hydroplaning. The vehicle went off the road and struck a tree, and subsequently caught fire.

Archer said his investigation found that the truck’s tires “did not have an adequate amount of tread” on them.

Photos taken at the scene show the charred remains of the pickup truck. Both Archer and fire officials said the vehicle is a total loss.

Eleven members of the Fire Department responded to the scene for fire suppression and traffic control.

Conary called the passers-by who stopped to help “heroes” who “saved the day.”

“Not one of them bragged or even seemed to want any credit,” he said. “Some of them left to go on their way before I could even shake their hands.”

Conary said the passers-by made a “tremendous difference” in the community by saving the people in the truck but also by saving firefighters and EMS personnel “from the horror of what may certainly have haunted us for a long time.”

“Thank you for being there in the right place and doing the right thing,” Conary said.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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