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Updated: Fire Guts Car on Olympic Boulevard

Fire aggravated south downtown traffic jams; 'Good Samaritan' helped elderly man escape burning car, Patch reader says.

Update, 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, more on the Good Samaritan story, 5:50 p.m. Tuesday, comments from Fire Marshal Lewis Broschard.

A large, four-door sedan "exploded" in flames on Olympic Boulevard Tuesday morning, in the words of Patch reader Danny Milks.

The report from ConFire indicated a man involved in the incident talking about "chest pains," said Lewis Broschard, fire marshal for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.

Another Patch reader told a story about a good Samaritan woman pulling the elderly driver from the burning car.

Joseph Sturdivant of San Francisco said he had been headed to the dry cleaners on Newell Avenue. But the traffic was too thick shortly after the shooting investigation had blocked southbound I-680, dumping many vehicles into downtown Walnut Creek. Discouraged by the traffic, Sturdivant turned around to head back toward Lafayette — west — on Olympic, when he saw the car on fire, pointed in the other direction.

He said there was gas on the ground under the car and it was clear "the car would soon be in total flames. There were several of us ready to assist but the young lady (in her twenties, he thought) had already solved the immediate problem, which was getting the man safely out of the car. Smoke was starting to fill up the car when the Good Samaritan banged on the driver side window to get the elderly man out. He was confused but apparently followed the young lady's instructions. After he opened the door, she assisted him in getting his seatblet off and then held him as she helped or pulled him out of the car."

Sturdivant said, "She was a hero in my mind."

The accident was reported to ConFire at 10:20 a.m. Tuesday on Olympic Boulevard just east of Alpine Road, near CVS. Firefighters arrived in two or three minutes and found no one inside the car, Broschard said. It took eight to 10 minutes to control the fire.

The cause of the fire is unknown, Broschard said.

One lane of traffic was closed, said Milks, with downtown traffic already snarled by a California Highway Patrol shooting incident earlier in the morning on Interstate 680 in Alamo.

Thanks to Jim Boucher and Danny Milks for sending in their dramatic photos from the scene.

Megan September 04, 2012 at 09:43 PM
We can only still dream of Longs Drugs. It's been CVS for at least 3 years now.
David Ogden September 04, 2012 at 10:33 PM
I still miss Longs and never go into any CVS store.
doadeeer September 05, 2012 at 12:42 AM
What does Longs/CVS have anything to do with the article?
Danny Milks September 05, 2012 at 05:52 PM
I only saw the car after the event was over. Comparing the "before" and "after" photo - I can't believe they were the same car! Amazing story. Any update on the driver?
shahdi vakili September 06, 2012 at 05:30 AM
The driver I believe was taken to his desintation by the officer. We helped the driver out of the car and to the side of the street where he appeared to be just fine. He was worried about his car and I believe some belongings inside, but thank God he was safe. I was also wondering if there was any update on the driver? I believe his name was Emerson? There was a lot going on and I have seemed to forget his name :(

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