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    Copyright 2003 McClatchy Newspapers, Inc.

    Modesto Bee October 7, 2003, Tuesday, FINAL EDITION The call came in like any other.

    McHenry Avenue. A vehicle into a pole. Two men injured.

    Jeff Fernandes, an Escalon Fire District volunteer, drove to the fire station and climbed into a rescue truck. He drove up Main Street, turned onto McHenry and headed south.

    As the truck crossed a canal, Fernandes caught his first glimpse of the mangled yellow Mustang convertible. His heart sank. His mind raced.

    And everything changed.

    Inside the Mustang had been fellow Escalon firefighters Jeremy Palmer and Michael Baker. Now both men were lying in the dirt outside the car. Fernandes ran from the truck and joined the other firefighters already on the scene.

    "It's just completely different when it's someone you know," Fernandes said. "You don't do different care, it's just a lot tougher. I couldn't think straight. ... And then later it gets harder. I find myself thinking, 'Did I do everything I could do?'"

    Palmer, 23, was pronounced dead Monday afternoon at Memorial Medical Center, fire chief Gary Augusto said. He was kept on life-support machines until 3 p.m. so his organs could be removed.

    Baker, 28, remained in critical condition at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. He underwent surgery Monday on his left leg. He also suffered from internal and head injuries, firefighters said.

    The two men had been going north toward Escalon about 6 p.m. Saturday after attending an Oktoberfest event. Palmer attempted to pass a car, then swerved back toward his lane to avoid hitting an approaching vehicle, the California Highway Patrol said. The Mustang went out of control, back across McHenry and crashed into a utility pole.

    The violent impact sheared the Mustang in half and threw both men from the car onto the dirt shoulder. That's where their friends found them.

    For firefighters in a big city like San Francisco, duty rarely includes being called on to try and save family and friends. The opposite is true for career firefighters in a town like Escalon, where roughly 6,000 people live.

    Even as emergency workers attended to Baker and Palmer, phone calls began pouring into the downtown station. They had not slowed much Monday afternoon. As friends and co-workers of Baker and Palmer talked about the crash and its aftermath, the phone rang every few minutes.

    "Those two guys are my support network," said Cassidy Bohannon, a firefighter who graduated from Escalon High School in 1999 alongside Palmer. "When I had a problem or something I needed to work out, the three of us would go out and talk about it. They are who I need right now."

    Firefighters initially held out hope that Palmer would survive the crash. But word reached them Sunday that hope was lost.

    At sunset, Bohannon and several other firefighters decided to lower the flag outside the station to half-staff. Rules dictate a flag left overnight must have a light on it, so the men used duct tape to fasten a spotlight to a storm drain, pointed at the flag.

    On Sunday night, firefighter Jeff Grass returned to his family with heavy thoughts.

    For the past two years, he and Palmer had spent long weekends rebuilding the Mustang. With about $5,000 and a lot of sweat, the men finally got the car running about a month ago.

    Grass struggled with the realization that Palmer died in the car they rebuilt together. But, for Grass, the hardest part was telling his 8- and 5-year-old daughters, who simply loved Palmer.

    "He did everything with them," Grass said. "They kept saying, 'But that's your best friend, daddy. Now you won't see him again.'

    "I said, 'Yes, I will. And he'll be like your guardian angel watching down on you from heaven.' That's the best I could explain it to them."

    A trust fund to assist the firefighters' families has been set up at Bank of the West, 1633 Main St., Escalon 95320.

    May God Forever Bless and watch over the families of Firefighetr Palmer and Baker. Firefighter Baker, God speed on a full recovery. You are in our thoughts, Brothers.
    Last edited by brubaker; 10-08-2003, 04:23 PM.
    Bruce Baker

    Medic Student, EMT-I, EMT-I instructor, Haz-Mat FRO

    Fraternal Order Of Paramedics Society Member

    R.I.P. 343, 9/11/01, God Bless America.

  • #2
    My thoughts and prayers go out to the department and the family of the two firefighters. My department had about the samething happen last year. Its tough.
    AKA: Mr. Whoo-Whoo

    IAFF Local 3900

    IACOJ-The Crusty Glow Worm

    ENGINE 302 - The Fire Rats



    • #3
      Same as ff7134...mutual aid structure fire about 9 years ago. 6 people died, including the homeowner who was one of our Fire Police. My thoughts and sympathies go out to this department and its members.
      In Arduis Fidelis
      Faithful in Adversity


      • #4
        It's very difficult to type when your eyes aren't "seeing" clearly.

        Jeremy, may you rest in peace, and know that God is watching your family and friends.

        Michael, god speed on a full and complete recovery.

        My prayers to the families involved and to the Escalon Fire Station in their time of need.
        If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

        "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

        "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

        Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

        impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto

        IACOJ member: Cheers, Play safe y'all.


        • #5
          Heart Felt sympathies for the families and friends involved.

          If you don't respond.....who will

          IACOJ EMS Bureau Member
          IACOJ Member


          • #6
            My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of Firefighters Jeremy Palmer and Michael Baker and to the Escalon Fire Department. May God bring peace to you and watch over Michael that he makes a full recovery.

            Rest in peace Jeremy


            • #7
              From our family to the family of Jeremy our sincere sympathy for the loss of Jeremy, and our prayers go out to you. To Michael and his family, we are praying that you have a full recovery from this tragic event. And finaly to the brothers of the Escalon Fire Department, we grieve and pray with you for your loss.

              STILL STANDING!!!!!!!!!!!


              • #8
                Rest in Peace, Jeremy

                My sympathies and best wishes for a complete recovery to Michael.

                My condolences to the Palmer and Baker families and to the Escalon Fire Department.
                September 11th - Never Forget

                I respect firefighters and emergency workers worldwide. Thank you for what you do.

                Honorary Flatlander

                RAY WAS HERE FIRST


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