Following ten weeks of towing vehicles to the impound for law enforcement, my employer moved me back to the Interstate Highway a few weeks ago. Once again, I’m a Courtesy Patrol Driver for CDOT.

When someone breaks down, runs out of gas, gets a flat tire, or crashes into another vehicle, we show up. For many reasons, my job is always hazardous. There’s a reason we carry fire extinguishers.

For those familiar with the Denver Area, the City of Castle Rock is just south. The Interstate Highway [I-25] runs along the Front Range of The Rockies. Adding to the peril of anyone stopping or standing on the shoulder, that area of the highway has a posted speed limit of 75 MPH.

When dispatch contacted me over the radio yesterday afternoon to inform me CSP [State Patrol] requested my presence on the scene for a car fire, I knew it would be challenging. Traffic was backed up for as far as I could see. I had to run the shoulder for about a mile to reach the sight. There were more than a dozen First Responder Vehicles on scene. Fortunately, the Fire Department had already extinguished the blaze.

Here’s where it gets dangerous. As soon as I hooked up the car and lifted the front, gas began pouring out of the fuel system. As you can see in the picture, the vehicle’s exhaust system sticks out behind the car and only has about two inches of clearance. We pried the tailpipe up as far as we could. I had to tow this car for five miles while it dumped fuel. If anything scraped the ground, causing a spark, the whole thing would surely burst back into flames while connected to my truck. Two additional CDOT Vehicles and a State Trooper escorted me to an empty parking lot.

As you can see, I didn’t explode yesterday. When our Incident Commander asked if I was up for it, I explained, “I’m not Superman, but my wife and I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last week in Galesburg, Illinois.” True story, we did stay there while visiting our Son at school.

Joseph Shanklin

February 23, 2021

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