Firefighters awarded for heroism
August 18, 2004
CARSON CITY – In his 17 years of firefighting, Greg Tibbets had never faced the kind of danger he experienced in last month’s Waterfall fire.
“It was the scariest moment of my life,” he said.
Tibbets and his Nevada Division of Forestry crew members, Capt. Tim Leighton and Eric Reymus, were among several firefighters trapped in a clearing when the flames raced through.
“You could see the wall of fire coming toward us,” recalled Leighton. “When it got to the cul-de-sac, where we were, it just ripped through.”
Knowing they were the only truck equipped to operate a water pump from inside the vehicle, the crew quickly began spraying down other trapped firefighters.
“We realized we couldn’t do anything else,” Reymus said. “But you just couldn’t give up. You had to do something.”
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During a special ceremony at the Capitol Wednesday morning, Gov. Kenny Guinn recognized Leighton, Tibbets and Reymus for their heroism.
“You stayed there to make sure the others were safe,” Guinn said. “That must have been a spray they’ll never forget. Thank you for standing tall for your co-workers.”
Firefighter Kevin Kleinworth of the Central Lyon County Fire Protection District was also honored for his bravery.
Kleinworth waited for a News Channel 4 truck to turn around. The news crew barely escaped, but Kleinworth was not as fortunate.
As the flames engulfed his truck, he fled on foot and jumped into a Nevada Division of Forestry vehicle.
“I didn’t know who it was,” he said. “I just jumped in.”
He suffered burns on his cheeks, nose, ears and neck. His truck was destroyed.
“At the time, I was surprisingly calm,” he said. “But when you reflect back, it was pretty scary. I relive it every day.”
Victoria Campbell, reporter for Channel 4, said she and photographer Jeff Deitch parked where they were told and left quickly when firefighters warned of approaching flames.
Kleinworth said the news crew could have been better prepared.
“The whole point is, they’re supposed to know they were faced the wrong way in the cul-de-sac,” he said. “If they had faced the way we all faced, there might have been a chance we could have gotten out.
“I got burned for their video.”
Campbell lauded firefighters’ efforts.
“I always had a lot of respect for firefighters,” she said. “I have a whole new respect for firefighters and fires now. You couldn’t have convinced me a fire could move that fast. It does.”
Each of the firefighters accepted the award with humility, pointing to the courage of their colleagues.
“It’s an honor, but I accept it on behalf of all the firefighters that were up there,” Kleinworth said. “They’re all heroes.”
As the ceremony concluded, Leighton and Reymus shook hands in parting.
“I was proud to have you as part of my crew that day,” Leighton told him.