A 19-year-old Northern Virginia woman is being hailed as a hero after she lifted a pickup truck off her father and saved her family from a fire.
Charlotte Heffelmire was presented the Citizen Lifesaving Award on Thursday by the Fairfax County fire department and Rep. Jim Moran.
The soft-spoken former McLean High School pole vaulter, who earned a place at the U.S. Air Force Academy, found strength when her family needed it most.
Her father, Eric Heffelmire, was working on an old GMC truck in the garage of the family’s Vienna, Virginia home Nov. 28. when a jack he was using slipped.
“The minute the jack slipped, there was an almost instantaneous, real strong smell of gasoline, and then just, whoosh!” he recalled.
Within seconds, he was pinned beneath the huge vehicle and the garage had caught fire.
“We had a bunch of propane containers and they were cooking off — just fireballs,” he said.
He struggled for 10 minutes when a door opened and his daughter ran: 5-foot-6, 120 pounds and barefoot.
Charlotte Heffelmire began to lift the truck.
“I felt the weight shift, and I said, ‘You almost got it,’ and then it was just UGHHHHHHRRR, and suddenly I’m pulled out,” Eric Heffelmire said.
Then, his daughter realized the truck’s gas tank would explode and could engulf the house in flames. She jumped in the driver’ seat and gunned the truck sideways on its three remaining wheels, away from the house.
She then grabbed a garden hose and began spraying down the house before firefighters arrived.
Charlotte Heffelmire’s grandmother and 3-month-old niece were able to exit the home. She suffered burns to her feet and hands, and a back injury has kept her from returning to the Air Force Academy. She said her plans for the future include public service.