Madison Calhoun began driving through an intersection Tuesday when she noticed a car on fire in her rear-view mirror—two people were still inside—so she got out and ran toward the smoke.
Ms. Calhoun, 18, Clayton, graduated from Thousand Islands High School last year. She had been enrolled in the junior program at Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service for the last two years, and this past summer she finished her training to become a certified EMT. She plans to continue training until she’s a paramedic.
At around 4 p.m. Tuesday, Ms. Calhoun was on her way to the rescue service to start her shift. She stopped at the blinking-red light where County Route 4 meets County Route 9. When she drove through, she noticed something wrong with the car behind her. Getting a better look, she saw the entire bottom of the car was engulfed in flames. Two people were inside.
“My instinct as an EMT kicked in,” Ms. Calhoun said. “I needed to get them out.”
She got out of her car and started running back through the intersection, waving her arms in their direction. The two people inside then realized they needed to get out.
“I ran right over and said ‘you guys need to get out,’” Ms. Calhoun said.
She stuck with her training. She remained calm when the two seemed to panic. She took them away from the inflamed vehicle, to the curb and then dialed 911. Moments later, the rest of the car went up in flames.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Ms. Calhoun said. “It was something else. It was hectic.”
Ms. Calhoun said she went to school with the two who were inside the car. They’re both teenagers and still in high school—one told her he was on his way to hockey practice.
“I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I didn’t know they were safe,” she said about what made her stop and run back. “I think it’s a natural instinct when you become an EMT.”
The Cape Vincent Fire Department arrived on scene shortly after. Chief Bill Gould said the car was fully involved by the time they got on the scene. Crews sprayed foam and water and had it knocked down in 15 minutes. He confirmed no one was injured.