Called to Serve
As a retired U.S. Marine, Tucker Zimmerman is trained to react when duty calls. That’s exactly what the Bobcat of Redding sales specialist did when a Northern California wildfire threatened the community where his customers live and work.
The Carr wildfire began July 23, 2018, when sparks from a blown trailer tire ignited dry brush alongside a state highway. Strong winds combined with dry conditions caused the fire to spread quickly and erratically, making it difficult for fire crews to contain the blaze.
By July 26, the wildfire began to spread east toward the Shasta County community and the town of Redding. That’s when Tucker knew it was time to act.
“I didn’t have a good feeling about the direction of the fire, so I began to call customers to check on them,” he says. “I tell all my customers, when you purchase a machine you become part of my Bobcat family.”
As news reports came in that the fire was continuing to encroach on the community, Tucker used his visibility as a local Bobcat of Redding salesperson to offer help communitywide.
“I sent a text to the local radio station with my name, cell number and message that I was with Bobcat of Redding,” he says. “I said I have a flatbed truck and a horse trailer if anyone needs help or they have livestock to evacuate.”
Tucker knew his Bobcat equipment-branded truck, baseball cap and shirt with the Bobcat Company logo would give him credibility and make him easy to identify.
“I gave my business card to each person I helped, so they would know I was a trustworthy volunteer,” he says.
Tucker was soon fielding calls to evacuate horses, goats and other livestock. He arranged for evacuated animals to be temporarily boarded at the county fairgrounds and a local outdoor arena.
As the day wore on, Tucker’s efforts escalated and led to a daring rescue. While heading to the fairgrounds to check on evacuated animals, he noticed a car stopped on the side of the road.
Checking on the driver’s welfare, Tucker learned the woman’s husband was trying to save their home in a neighborhood that had been evacuated. Trained to leave no man behind, Tucker set off on foot to find the woman’s husband and return him safely to his wife.
Running past homes ablaze and through thick, dense smoke, Tucker found the man valiantly dousing his home with a garden hose. Despite Tucker’s warnings, the man refused to leave so Tucker grabbed another hose and began to fight the flames on the burning house next door.
As windows in the house began to explode from the intense heat, Tucker heard a flapping sound and spotted an American flag in the yard. He used the flag to shield himself from the flying shards of glass.
Soon he heard another familiar sound – a large diesel engine – and knew more help was on the way. Tucker flagged down the fire engine and helped firefighters hook up hoses to fight the blaze.
Asked by firefighters to evacuate the dangerous situation, Tucker left the fiery scene on foot and returned to the spot where he’d left his truck. He then drove to the location where the homeowner’s wife was waiting to reunite with her husband. Tucker told her that firefighters had arrived to help her husband save their home. Then he gave her the American flag he’d used to shield himself, while simultaneously saving it from the fire.
Strangers Become Friends
During the next few weeks, Tucker and more than 100 volunteers managed to rescue more than 250 animals that were endangered by the Carr fire. Volunteers worked to arrange temporary boarding, feed plans, veterinary care and their safe return to owners.
“All the work was done by volunteers who were strangers before the fire, and now we’ve become friends. We are here to help our Shasta County family if and when the need arises,” says Tucker.
On August 30 – more than one month after the initial spark – the Carr fire was fully contained. Tragically, the wildfire led to eight deaths, destroyed thousands of homes and consumed more than 229,000 acres.
Tucker says the community is slowly rebuilding, and construction on new homes and businesses will likely begin in the spring. When the time comes, he’s ready to serve any way he can.
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