Officer response prevents potential explosion

Published 2:43 pm Thursday, July 13, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Fire and gasoline, when combined, create the potential for a deadly scenario which, left unchecked, can lead to a lethal explosion, property damage, and ultimately the death of persons in the immediate vicinity. First responders are trained to respond in volatile situations and thanks to quick thinking on the part of Greenville Police Sergeant Tom Powell, motorist refueling at two Fort Dale Road convenience stores July 5 narrowly missed a potentially lethal situation.

Carolyn Dillard, who works at the QV convenience store on Fort Dale Road, was on duty around 8:30 p.m. that evening when she noticed a commotion at the Circle K across the street.

“A lady drove her car to Circle K and it was on fire,” Dillard said. “She parked her car at the gas pump. I guess people in the store called 911.”

Email newsletter signup

Dillard said she watched a Greenville Police unit arrive and later learned the responder was Sergeant Tom Powell. According to Dillard, Powell used his vehicle to push the burning car away from the gas dispensers before he began extinguishing the flames.

“He pushed the car away from the pumps using his car,” Dillard said. “He immediately jumped out of his car. Flames were coming from under the hood and around both tires. He put the fire out all by himself with no help. He saved the situation which could have been a tragedy for all of us because if the fire had caught [gas] fumes we would all be gone today.”

According to Greenville Police Chief Justin Lovvorn, Powell was the first to arrive on the scene.

“He was on patrol during that time and got a call that the fire department had been dispatched to a gas station on Fort Dale Road about a vehicle fire,” Lovvorn said. “He happened to be the first one to arrive on the scene and saw that the car was on fire and getting close to what we would call fully engulfed. It would be hard to put out once it reached that point so he determined the best and first action was to get the car away from the gas pump.”

Lovvorn confirmed that Powell used his patrol vehicle to push the car to a safer location, away from the gas dispensers. Then, Powell used his patrol unit fire extinguisher to battle the flames.

“Those fire extinguishers are not huge,” Lovvorn said. “So, it’s just do what you can and he was able to put out the fire for a moment. The fire department came right after that and was able to make sure the flames would not reignite.” 

Powell handled the situation well, Lovvorn said, and is one of many officers on the force who work every day to selflessly serve Greenville residents.

“We had around five [officers] receive Lifesaver awards last year for all kinds of different things,” Lovvorn said. “A few years back Captain Joseph Disney pulled a person from a burning building and saved their lives. Captain Curtis Miller and another officer broke a window during a house fire, directed the resident to the window, and were able to pull them out.”

Officers are recognized for their actions regularly, Lovvorn explained.

For Dillard, who shared the experience on social media, witnessing Powell in action was inspiring.

“He never slowed down from the time he got there,” Dillard said. “He didn’t even stop to think, ‘Hey, I could be putting my life in danger.’ The gas tank and the car could have blown up on him, but he never stopped. He just jumped out and went into action before the fire could do any damage.”