Travis Co. firefighters share story of narrow escape during Singleton-Bend brush fire

Firefighters with Travis County ESD-1 say the Singleton-Bend brush fire actually started last Tuesday and got going again on Wednesday.  

"By the time we got there it was about 30 acres," said Scott White with Star Flight.  "A big fire like that, our mutual aid is coming from Austin, Leander, Cedar Park, Liberty Hill," said EMS Lt. Brannon Stengel.

Lt. Stengel was on a brush truck with rookie firefighter Jessilyn Davis.  

Stengel says you want to fight fire "from the black," meaning the part that's already burned.  But he says they couldn't get to the black.  They were in the green.  A dangerous place to be.

"The wind shifted within a matter of 3 minutes and came straight towards us," Stengel said.  

"When I heard the 'mayday' drop, my heart just sank, I was like 'Oh God,'" Davis said.

Stengel and Davis say smoke and fire cut off their escape route and the truck had run out of water.

"There was a point where he told me to just get on the ground and he wrapped his shirt around my face because I was inhaling a lot of smoke and was just like 'if you see fire coming at you spray it' and the water was...hardly going," Davis said.

Davis has only been on the job 6 months.  She says this was her first brush fire.

"I really did think we were going to die that day.  It was...I was mostly just like 'already? I'm so young and I'm so new to all of this,'" Davis said. 

Overhead, Scott White with Star Flight spotted the crew in trouble.

"We were able to relay what we saw to command and then what they had for units around them and basically we were able to give them directions so they both could meet up," White said.  

And on the ground, ESD 1 Captain Robert Ming was trying to find his fellow firefighters in thick smoke with very low visibility.  Ming got out of his truck and started out on foot telling the brush trucks to follow him.

"So I pulled out my phone, opened up the little map app and I was using that to follow the road," Ming said.

ESD 1 firefighters says when Star Flight flew over, they actually parted the smoke like the red sea. 

"The cards were played perfectly.  The phone helped me get to where we needed to get, Star Flight flew over at exactly the right time, opened up a window to where we could see where the brush truck was," Ming said.  

"It all ties together so that we can make a difference and everybody gets to go home.  That's a good day," White said.  

Stengel and Davis got to go home.

"It was just so much relief.  I was so happy to see the people who came to get us," Davis said.

Captain Ming points out: just another 5 minutes and this would have turned out very differently.

"These people are family to me.  They are my second family, they are all my brothers and sisters and I would do anything, anything I could possibly do to help them out especially when they're in trouble," Ming said.