Substitute bus driver fights fire during route
By BRITTANY FHOLER
A substitute bus driver for Copperas Cove Independent School District acted quickly and heroically, extinguishing a fire at a residence on a bus route while taking students to Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy Thursday afternoon.
Raymond Riddle, who is a mechanic with the CCISD Maintenance Department, was driving bus #96, filling in due to a shortage of bus drivers. Riddle and other employees in the department are licensed to drive the buses in case of a shortage.
Riddle said he had opened the doors to let a young student onto the bus when he smelled smoke. As a volunteer firefighter in Belton and having been in the military, Riddle said he knew the smell of smoke. When he pulled the bus forward, he saw the smoke and the fire in the front yard of a residence on Scott Drive. Riddle parked the bus and put the bus aide in charge of watching the children while he took the fire extinguisher out to put out the fire. Before he extinguished the fire, Riddle said he had the aide pressing on the bus horn and had the mother of the student he had just picked up go knock on the residence door to alert the neighbor.
The fire was starting to spread due to the wind picking up and likely would have continued to other residences before spreading down a hill, Riddle said.
After the fire was extinguished, the homeowner came out and Riddle directed them to turn on their water hose to soak the ground and prevent reignition.
Riddle said he then got back on the bus, finished his route and then told his supervisor about the incident when he returned to the Bus Barn.
He said he never expected to get any sort of recognition and just did what he would want done if it were his house.
“It’s rare to see someone doing something like that and risking their lives to save something else that doesn’t belong to them, but I was
looking at it like if it was my house and my kids were there and everything, that’s the reason why I did what I had to do,” Riddle said. “I know how it is having something and losing something and I didn’t want that for somebody else.”
When he saw the kids from that bus route the next day, they gave him a picture, cookies and a Captain America sweatshirt, which he wore to Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting.
“They called me a hero but you know, I don’t see it that way,” Riddle said. “I see it as someone doing a good deed.”
Riddle’s supervisor, Gary Elliott, said that Riddle’s actions were a natural instinct for him and praised his actions.
“We’re all about safety, you know, whether it’s in the bus, you need to be aware of your surroundings at all time and he proved that,” Elliott said.
Riddle was also praised by Mae Stevens principal Mary Derrick, who said that the kids think of Riddle as a superhero.
“It’s just amazing our district hires people that are so community service oriented and that want to give back and that help and they save and they work no matter where they’re at,” Derrick said. “It’s just exciting that the kids kind of witnessed what they hear in their lessons in action.”
Derrick called Riddle a role model for the students because he put the needs of other people before himself. He took care of the kids, the people in the house and put out the fire, Derrick said.
“Having someone like that work for the district, they should be recognized for it,” she said.
Raymond Riddle was recognized for his bravery by Copperas Cove Fire Department Chief Michael Neujahr at the CCISD Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday evening. He received a certificate of recognition and a Fire Department coin from Neujahr as well as a medal from the Board of Trustees and a standing ovation at the meeting.
“The preservation of life and property is a community effort. When a fire occurs, it has the potential to be devastating,” Neujahr said. “Fire is indiscriminate. It doesn’t matter what your race is, what gender you are, what your political affiliation is or even your socioeconomic status. When a fire breaks out, it has one purpose: to cause damage. That’s why when a citizen steps up and intervenes and helps save a life, or in this case, prevent property damage, they deserve special recognition.”
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