OUACHITA COUNTY, Ark.- First responders are recovering mentally and physically, after not only seeing a truck explosion, but feeling it.
“There’s hundreds of things that are going through our minds,” says Camden Fire Chief Robert Medford.
Medford learned a truck carrying highly flammable material was on fire Wednesday morning.
“We realized at that point that it was too far gone,” Medford recalls. “We didn’t have enough water to fight this fire.”
Chief Medford had already made the call to evacuate people living within a mile radius of the burning truck.
Moments after he and his crew made contact with the driver and headed back to their units, the worst possibility happened.
“This was a bigger explosion, a bigger explosive event than I have ever witnessed,” the fire chief says.
It knocked the chief and several firefighters to the ground, blew out an engine’s windshield and made nearly every airbag in the chief’s truck deploy.
“At first, I didn’t realize the damage was quite as extensive as it was,” Medford says.
While it’s believed Randall McDougal, 63, was the driver killed in the explosion, the chief is determined to learn from it.
“As bad as this incident was with the loss of life, we still try to learn a lesson from these,” says Medford.
As as the Arkansas Department of Transportation crews and Ouachita Sheriff’s deputies work to repair and clean up the 15-foot deep crater on Highway 278, the fire department is busy with its own repairs and reflection.
“I would like to think that decisions that we made were the right decisions and that they did result in lives saved,” Medford says.