An Ordinary Hero

It is easy for our lives to fall into a routine, one identical day blending into the next. So when David Meade, a garbage truck driver with Cincinnati-based Rumpke Consolidated Cos., was driving his collection route on Jan. 11, 2007, he had little reason to believe that he would be asked to stray from his daily duties. And, he certainly did not expect to save someone's life.

Around 12:30 a.m., Meade, who works at the company's Greenville, Ohio, location, arrived at the Paris Courts Trailer Park just off of U.S. Route 36. At first, everything seemed as it should. “I went in there, started picking up trash [and] I noticed an odor but I didn't see anything. So, I just kept on picking up trash,” Meade says. “I came back around and then noticed the flames under the house.”

The flames were emanating from underneath the home of an elderly couple. Without thought or hesitation, Meade ran to the house to alert owners Roger and Sheryl Svec. Both were sleeping inside.

Drawing upon his basic safety training at Rumpke, Meade sprang into action. Meade and Roger Svec immediately began tearing the skirting from the house to fight the blaze that continued to erupt from underneath the trailer. “We went back [and] got his wife out, and I ran back to my truck and got the fire extinguisher and tried to put the fire out,” Meade says.

The 10-year Rumpke veteran also called 9-1-1. Luckily, Fletcher Fire Chief Scott Pence lives less than one mile away and arrived at the scene within minutes. Together, Meade and Pence battled the fire until additional crews arrived. Fire officials determined that an electrical short in the heating tape on the trailer's water pipes had ignited the blaze.

“The smoke detectors in the trailer were not functioning. If Meade hadn't awoken the couple and helped them to safety, they may not be here now,” Pence said in a press release. “Meade's heroic actions go above and beyond and may have saved two lives last night.”

But, for Meade, who completed his shift that unexpected night and will be honored at a February company awards ceremony, it's back to work as usual, back to his routine — the daily job of garbage collection. Steve Rumpke, Meade's supervisor, says the incident has enhanced the awareness the company's workers have about their surroundings while they are on the job.

Also, Rumpke hopes it will instill an awareness of the work of the local garbage collectors among the company's customers. “People really don't think about the garbage man out there picking up garbage. It's just a service [where] people don't really realize what we do out there,” Rumpke says. “This way, people realize that we are kind of watching out for the well-being of a lot of other people.”