315 AW Aircraft mechanic responds to local fire, becomes Hometown Hero

  • Published
  • By Capt Michaela Judge
As a Reservist, the responsibility and moral character that comes with wearing the uniform doesn't stop with sign-out at the end of each unit training assembly--it's a constant professional mindset.

Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Landis, 315th Maintenance Squadron aircraft maintenance mechanic, knows this all too well.

During his commute home from a recent drill weekend, Landis faced a very real call to action that would change the course of what should have been a familiar and uneventful drive through St. Stephens, S.C.

"As I was going through the main area of town, I looked up at the gas prices to see what they were. Just caddy corner from the [gas] sign was this little red house with a white garage," said Landis.

At a glance he saw flames through the front garage door next to the red house, and immediately thought someone had lit a charcoal grill with too much lighter fluid.

As Landis' car passed the house, something in him told him to look back - and this time he saw something different; a flame was peeking over the roof of the garage.

Knowing the flames of a grill wouldn't get that high, he made the quick decision to go back and investigate.

"Something just told me to turn around and go make sure. When I got to the house, I first ran to the garage and looked inside. The back left room was fully engulfed in flames. I looked for a second -- the best I could without going in, to make sure there wasn't anyone inside. When I didn't see anyone, I ran to the house beating on every window I passed," he said.

Without hesitation, Landis ran up on the porch and opened the door of the house.

Rushing inside he saw a woman in the kitchen, with her two children close by on a couch playing games.

"They all looked completely scared that I just came into their house. I yelled, "Ma'am, do you know that your garage is on fire?" And when she ran passed me and saw the fire for herself, she came back completely hysterical, and picked up her phone, I think to call her husband," said Landis.

While she was on the phone, Landis continued yelling for them to get out of the house. Taking charge, he grabbed the kids' hands and they all rush outside to the front yard where he could safely call 911.

"As soon as I got an operator, a St. Stephen's police officer was driving by, so I dropped my phone and flagged him down. [The police officer] stopped to get out and called dispatch for the fire department."

During the wait for the fire department, the garage along with one of the family's cars becomes fully engulfed in flames, with the fire reaching about 40 feet high, said Landis.

"All of a sudden the power line burns in half and falls to the ground and starts popping and flashing as its shorting out as it burns. The power line continued to do this for the rest of the time that I was there," he said.

The destruction and danger of the fire didn't stop there, though.

"When the power line fell, the telephone pole side of the power line fell on an older S10 style pickup truck. The heat from the garage fire and the power line together caused the truck bursts in to flames, [causing] the tires to start exploding," he said.

At that point, the roof and the shingles of the garage caught fire and the flame height doubled and spread to the trees beside the garage. With the leaves and branching starting to rain down in flames, Landis said it caused the fire to run toward the house and caught the back part of the house's wood siding on fire.

With time no longer on their side, and as the fire engine arrived on scene, the team had to jump into action immediately. Though Landis could have taken a step back, he saw another need for help and didn't hesitate to jump right in.

"[The firefighters] instantly turned on the truck's pump and grabbed the fire hose and ran it down the driveway to stop the house from catching on fire. While they were doing that, it left only one firefighter to get the hoses out of the truck and hook up to the fire hydrant 100 feet away. So the officer and I grabbed the large hose and dragged it to the fire hydrant," he said.

Landis' quick thinking not only ensured the fire didn't spread beyond the back siding of the house, his actions provided the safe keeping and escape of a local family that day.

"I don't know if it took moral courage. [It was] just about turning around and making sure that the family was aware of the situation and to make sure that they were able to get to a safe place," said Landis.

His actions that day mirrored what he said he's learned as a military member: doing the right thing at all times not matter what.

"If you see something wrong or not being done correctly it's your job as a [noncommissioned officer] to correct the situation," he said.

Landis' humble yet dedicated work ethic has carried over and is evident in his day-to-day job as a Reservist.

"Tech Sgt. Landis is an outstanding Airman who exemplifies what the Air Force Core Values are.  He has a strong leadership mind and is always leaning forward with ideas for growing the Airmen who work for him.  This act of service before self is just another way that Tech. Sgt. Landis has shown his dedication to the Air Force Core Values and as a citizen Airman," said Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Johnson, 315th Maintenance flight chief.

The actions that Landis took that day haven't just garnered the respect of his teammates, though.
On March 3, Harlem Globetrotters player "Zeus" McClurkin made a personal visit to Joint Base Charleston where he recognized Landis as the team's Hometown Hero.
"It was an amazing opportunity to meet Sergeant Landis. He's a real hero and embodies what we have been trying to capture with our Hometown Hero's initiative. He saved a family's life, and he's a part of our nation's military. It's just our chance to give back to these people who have sacrificed so much for us over the years and it's really the least we can do," said McClurkin.

Landis, who was humbled by the appearance, will also be recognized during the Harlem Globetrotters game at the Charleston Coliseum March 10, 2015.

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