A construction worker who was trapped in the path of the Taylor Bridge Fire when it started told KIRO 7 on Thursday how he ducked in a pit dug for a wind turbine to avoid the flames.
Rick Waddell said it didn’t seem at first like the fire would threaten the construction crew he was working with on the ridge near Swauk Creek. Suddenly, though, the flames were upon them.
“We were trapped,” Waddell said. “The fire was probably on us about 20 minutes, and then the smoke and nasty air was probably another two hours.”
His crew of three took shelter in the only place they could: the wide but shallow pit they’d dug as a foundation for one of the turbines.
“We hunkered down in turbine hole No. 1 and soaked down all of our shirts and everything, and put shirts over our head – jackets and whatever we had,” he said.
The trapped crew spent two and a half hours in the pit as the flames and embers blew over them.
When KIRO 7 asked Waddell how he handled such a fearful situation, he said he’s a combat veteran of the Gulf War and Somalia.
“You just do the logical thing and you just kind of think your way through it and survive it,” he said. “One of the other guys was definitely talking to God, and I don’t hold that there against him.”
Their boss, Shane Escene, was off site when the fire swept over them, but he raced back through the thick smoke to rescue his team.
“It was extremely difficult to see, very difficult,” he said.
Waddell said Escene is a hero.
The narrow escape is now a memory.
“It was a rush. There’s an adrenaline rush certainly involved up there,” Waddell said. “And there’s some looking around going, ‘Holy s***, this is a story for the grandkids.’”