Two Chico veterans stopped and helped when they saw smoke and flames


Two Chico men were honored Monday morning at an event at Cal Fire-Butte County Fire Station 42 for their heroic efforts to help people affected by a fire Dec. 9.

James Baker, who owns a coffee shop in Hamilton City and William “Rip” Morgan, who works as a handyman, were driving in different directions on Highway 32 around 7:30 a.m. when they noticed a thick column of black smoke rising behind C Bar D Feeds feed store on the corner of Highway 32 and Muir Avenue. There were three homes on the property as well as the feed store.

Baker called 911 and informed dispatchers what the situation was and gave a report of a heavy fire.

Morgan arrived first. He and Baker were met at the end of the driveway by two of the victims. When Baker arrived he went to the mobile home close by which was occupied by a father and son. Baker banged on the door and alerted the occupants about the fire and got two and their dog out safely. Baker then went to the back to help Morgan out.

Both men have a military background, according to Cal Fire-Butte County Battalion Chief Jason Finney.

“Their civic duty was bred into them,” Finney said. “Most people this day and age might call 911 and keep on driving but not stop to help. No one wants to do that anymore.”

Finney is proud of both men’s actions that day.

“My hat goes off to both men for stopping to help,” Finney said. “They were in the right place at the right time.”

When Cal Fire-Butte County and Chico Fire Department firefighters responded, the mobile home and a shed were on fire. Firefighters put the flames out, but the occupants lost everything in the fire.

Finney said one burn victim succumbed to their injuries and died after being transported to Enloe Medical Center.

Both Baker and Morgan were uninjured and did not receive any treatment after the fire and the other victims were not injured.

C Bar D Feeds was not damaged. A total of seven fire trucks responded to the scene. Two water tenders were there.

“The closest engines respond no matter what jurisdiction the fire is in,” Finney said. “We provide the best level of care to citizens. All resources were at the scene.”

The fire was extinguished within 30 minutes but firefighters remained at the scene for several hours after. At this time, the cause of the fire is still undetermined.

“This is a fantastic event to honor these local heroes,” said Cal Fire-Butte County Capt. Jake Gilliam on Monday.

Both men received plaques to honor their actions and Cal Fire-Butte County Chief Garrett Sjolund gave a short speech thanking and praising both men.

“Don’t step on firefighters’ toes,” Morgan said after the ceremony. “Be sure you’re not in danger if you respond. If you’re not trained, I don’t recommend stepping in.”


(c) 2024 Chico Enterprise-Record

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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