Hyatt donned hero after man’s rescue

A Wilmar man found himself in the midst of flames and smoke Thursday afternoon as a wildfire raged just off of Highway 278 West near Wilmar. When he dialed 911, 30-year veteran dispatcher Gail Hyatt answered his call.

“When the call came in, he said he was surrounded by flames,” Hyatt said. “And that he was lost in the woods near his house.”

She said the caller couldn’t tell her anything else about where he was located except for his home address.

“There was just so much smoke that he couldn’t tell north, south, east or west,” Hyatt said.

She immediately called the sheriff’s department and they started looking for the caller’s location.

“Monticello Police Department Capt.(Carlos) Garcia came in here and started helping me track the caller on the screen,” Hyatt explained.

Garcia tracked him while Hyatt kept him on the line and helped him remain calm. Officer Kenny Cox also became involved in the ordeal and helped by relaying information to the planes already in the area.

“It took everyone up here to guide him out to safety,” Hyatt said. “We all worked together to help guide him out and I just kept him on the line and kept talking to him.”

Hyatt said the man had moments of panic during the ordeal, but she tried to keep him as calm as possible.

She added that the team was able to guide the caller to safety after approximately 35 minutes on the phone with him.

Officer Ginger Norris said Hyatt is being much too modest about the situation.

“The truth is there were times when he wanted to just give up and die,” Norris said. “But that’s when Gail would tell him to “get up and keep walking.” It really is a big deal. She saved this man’s life.”

Hyatt said this was the first instance she’d gotten a call where someone was lost in a forest fire, but she said she wasn’t afraid during the ordeal.

“There wasn’t time to get scared,” she said. “You just react, and do what you can to help people on the line.”

The caller came to visit Hyatt earlier this week to thank her for her efforts.

“He came to see me and to say thank you,” she said. “He told me he went to church and got saved this past Sunday. He said (getting lost in the fire) was a wake up call for him.”

Hyatt had planned to retire on Oct. 1, but earlier this year she agreed to continue to work through the end of 2013.

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