JONESBORO — On Monday afternoon, Tyler Slomka called his manager at the UPS Distribution Center in Marion, alerting him that he needed help delivering the rest of his packages.
The delivery driver for UPS had come across a situation around 12:45 p.m. Monday on Springville Hill Road that delayed his deliveries by a few hours.
He'd been driving up the winding, dipping and climbing road when he drove into a cloud of smoke and saw leaves on trees burning and smelled burning rubber.
He mentioned the burning to a customer to whom he’d delivered a package, and she thought to call the fire department; meanwhile, Slomka drove back down the rural road to get the accurate house address.
He then resumed delivering some packages, coming back across the home, where neighbor Judy Sims had already sprung into action.
“I had got three or four buckets of water, and the next thing I know, he’s pulling up, coming up to help me move stuff away from (the fire),” Sims said.
Slomka and Sims alerted authorities to the fire, which apparently started from trash being burned by the owner of the home at the foot of a steep driveway off of the main road.
“It was up in the trees,” Sims said of the fire. “It burned, I’m gonna say, probably two or three acres of the ground, the tractor, a lot of stuff in the front yard.”
No damage, no injuries
Firefighters from the Jonesboro Fire Department put out the fire, assisted by firefighters from the Shawnee National Forest, Jonesboro Fire Chief Tim Bowen said.
Thankfully, the fire did not damage the home — nestled in the midst of a pack of trees — nor any of those up the hill on either side of the road, nor did it cause any injuries, Bowen said. He said about four or five acres of the homeowner's property was burned, but that it should be fine by the next growing season.
After Slomka's call for help, other UPS drivers were dispatched to help him deliver the rest of his packages, Rob Bean, Slomka’s manager at UPS, said. The workload, which is doubled in this holiday season, took a few more hours, with Slomka finishing up at about 10 p.m. on Monday, he said.
“He really could have possibly saved some houses — and lives — at the same time,” Bean said.
Slomka, who is approaching his fifth year with UPS, said he did what he would have wanted someone to do for him.
He said he knew something was wrong, almost immediately. He said the smoldering embers or leaves were apparently tossed around by Monday's blustery winds.
'Not a hero thing'
At the site Wednesday afternoon, almost half the ground off the driveway leading to the house was parched from the fire.
"I don’t see it as a hero thing,” Slomka said. “I see it as more of doing the right thing ... trying to take care of one another. That’s how things should be.”
This is not the first time a UPS driver has been involved in a life-threatening situation, Bean said. A few years ago, a driver out delivering packages noticed something amiss in the snow and went over to investigate, discovering an elderly woman who had fallen in the snow and couldn’t get up. Immobilized, she could have frozen to death, he said.
“It happens more than I know,” Bean said of UPS driver rescue situations. “The drivers just take care of it and move on.”
A UPS media relations representative agreed.
"We are very proud of our driver heroes," representative Kim Krebs wrote in an email. "There are many stories of UPSers bravery, kindness and compassion posted on our social media channels including Facebook and Twitter."
Sims, who lost her own home to a fire during Christmastime in 1999, is thankful for Slomka's alertness.
“I was really proud of him,” Sims said.
“But had he not have stopped ... all of them houses would probably have burned.”