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Placer County sheriff’s deputy pulls 94-year-old Auburn man from flaming car

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - A Placer County Sheriff’s Office deputy who pulled a 94-year-old man from a flaming car was being lauded as a lifesaver Thursday. Jeff Morlan, owner of the Shell gas station on Lincoln Way in Auburn, said that he watched late Tuesday at about 8 p.m. as the senior pulled into his station with his car on fire. Morlan said he watched as Deputy Eric Bakulich rushed over and opened the door on the still-moving vehicle and dragged the man out. The fire spread to much of the car as Morlan – concerned about it moving to nearby gas pumps – attempted to put it out with a fire extinguisher and then control it with a hose. Auburn Fire personnel, called to the scene on a mutual aid request, eventually extinguished the fire before it could spread. The 94-year-old driver couldn’t walk and was taken in a wheelchair to a sheriff’s patrol car for a ride back to his Auburn home, Morlan said. Lt. Mark Reed said Thursday that Bakulich had been patrolling in the Bowman area and observed the man’s Buick with a flat tire and sparks flying off the wheel. Bakulich followed the vehicle to the Shell station and determined that the driver couldn’t get out of the burning car after it had stopped, he said. “He was able to pick him up and carry him away from the car,” Reed said. “It was heads up thinking on his part, with the car on fire and gas leaking from the vehicle.” Morlan said Bakulich’s actions likely saved the man’s life. The Sheriff’s Office declined to identify the driver. Bakulich and the rescued driver were uninjured, Reed said. The fire engulfed the engine compartment and sent flames about 12 feet in the air before it could be contained, Morlan said. “It was quite the spectacle and the whole cabin was filled with smoke,” Morlan said. “I’ve only had the business for two months. I didn’t want it to explode.”