California teacher’s books saved after quick actions of Discovery Hydrovac operator


A few books were lost and a car was destroyed, but it could have been worse if Keith Byers hadn’t been nearby.

Byers, a hydroexcavator operator for Discovery Hydrovac in California, was on his way to work Friday morning on Highway 99 in South Sacramento when the car in front of him burst into flames.

“I pulled over right behind the car and the young lady inside jumps out and starts screaming and crying and runs over to find out if I was a firefighter,” Byers says. The Mud Dog (Super Products) truck he was driving had about 800 gallons of water on board.

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With his adrenaline pumping, Byers didn’t answer the young lady.

“I just engaged the PTO and remote switch and jumped out of the truck and went over to the side and pulled out the hose and hooked up the wand and started spraying the car,” Byers says. “It happened so fast. I have over 1,000 hours of firefighting training under my belt and I knew a car fire isn’t good. I figured that since I have some water that I would give it a shot.”

Shortly after Byers started spraying the car, with fire engulfing the front of it, another passerby stopped with a fire extinguisher to help. The local fire department was on scene within 15 minutes.

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“They’re heroes to me,” the driver of the car, Olivia Grover told the local television station in an interview. “The kind of heroes you read about in the newspaper. The kind of heroes you hear about other people having, I have those heroes now.”

Because of their quick actions, the second-grade teacher from Elk Grove was able to save some of the 400 books in her trunk that she was bringing with her to school that day for her students.

“It felt like they were my dads in this situation, or my brothers, somebody who has known me my whole life,” Grover says. “To be willing to risk their lives for me, there’s no words to describe what they did for me.”

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While she was safe and her books were just wet rather than burned, Grover’s car was a different story. The front end of the car is destroyed. Byers knew the young teacher needed help and was told someone started a GoFundMe page to help her raise $1,000 toward a new car.  

While getting permission from Discovery Hydrovac to take part in media interviews about the incident, Byers asked his company for a little more help. “The girl needed help getting a new car, she’s a teacher, and Discovery wanted to help her,” Byers says. “So the company I work for ended up giving her $1,500 towards a new car.”

It wasn’t the first time the hydrovac operator with five years experience (including 1-1/2 years with Discovery) has helped extinguish a fire. Last year he was traveling along Highway 99 with 2,000 gallons of water to be dumped and was coming over a hill when he noticed that the hillside was on fire. With no fire department in sight, he turned around and started attacking the flames. He helped fire crews extinguish six of the eight fires that day.

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“It’s just something you do,” Byers says. “If you see someone who needs help, you just do what you can for them. Just be smart about it and don’t put your life at risk.”


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