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Woman, 19, honored for lifting pickup truck off pinned father during fire

By Ben Hooper Contact the Author   |   Jan. 8, 2016 at 3:24 PM
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VIENNA, Va., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- A 19-year-old Virginia woman received a lifesaving award for lifting a pickup truck to free her father and rescuing the rest of her family from a fire.

Eric Heffelmire said he was working on his GMC pickup truck in the garage of his family's Vienna home Nov. 28 when his jack slipped and the truck fell, pinning him to the ground and spilling gasoline that quickly caught fire.

"I was on my back, face up, and I was trying to get some corroded brakes lines when apparently the jack slipped and fell down on me." Heffelmire told WUSA-TV. "Pinned me across right here on my shoulder."

He said the fire set off a series of explosions.

"We had a bunch of propane containers and they were cooking off -- just fireballs," Heffelmire told WRC-TV.

Heffelmire's daughter, Charlotte, 19, was home from the Air Force Academy for Thanksgiving break and came into the garage to investigate the noise.

Charlotte Heffelmire -- who measures 5 feet and 6 inches tall, weighs in at 120 pounds and was barefoot at the time -- said even she has trouble believing what happened next.

"I lifted it [the truck] the first time, he said, 'OK, you almost got it,'" she said. "Finally managed to get it out, it was some crazy strength, pulled him out."

The former pole vaulter's heroism didn't end with rescuing her father.

"I didn't want the entire house to explode with the truck, so I started the truck, put it in four-wheel drive and just mashed on it with three wheels and just drove out. It left a nice groove on the asphalt," she said.

She then ran back into her house to evacuate her family, starting with her sister's baby.

"I just did what I had to do, so I don't feel like a big hero or anything," she said.

Charlotte Heffelmire was presented Thursday with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue's Citizen Lifesaving Award.

Officials praised all off her actions but one -- after evacuating her family, she tried to put out the flames with a garden hose.

She said she is taking a break from the Air Force Academy to recover from a back injury and now burns to her hands and feet. She said public service is still in her future.

"If I can't do any of the military branches, then probably just intelligence or government work," she said. "Right now I'm just healing up and making sure the family is OK."

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