Two Galt police officers pulled a teenager from her burning vehicle seconds before it exploded into a fireball Wednesday morning.
The 18-year-old woman did not suffer serious injuries, though she initially lost consciousness after crashing into a ditch while fleeing from police. The sport utility vehicle was destroyed in the fire, which filled the passenger compartment "less than a minute" after the rescue, said Galt Police Sgt. Ed Arlt.
"While I was leaning in across the passenger seat grabbing her arms, looking toward the driver's window, there were flames all over the car," said Arlt, who in 28 years with the department had never encountered such a scene.
Police Chief Loren Cattolico credited Arlt and Officer Steve Denier with saving the woman's life. Police did not release her name.
The matter started shortly before 11 a.m., when police were called to the 800 block of Lake Canyon Avenue, where a mother and daughter were physically fighting, said Lt. Brian Vizzusi.
The 18-year-old woman fled when Denier arrived at the scene east of Highway 99, south of Twin Cities Road. She crashed into her mother's home, then drove south on Carillion Boulevard.
Two miles away, she reached the road's end at Simmerhorn Road, where the vehicle crashed into a deep ditch filled with dry weeds. The airbags deployed and she lost consciousness.
Pursuing officers arrived moments later.
"When we got out of our cars and started going toward the car it had already started smoking, because weeds go that fast," Arlt said, explaining that the catalytic converter gets very hot and can set dry grass on fire.
The doors were locked and the young woman was still unconscious.
Arlt used his department-issued baton to break the passenger window, then reached in, unlocked the door and opened it.
Both officers began pulling the overweight woman from the vehicle, Vizzusi said.
She regained consciousness in the process and did not resist officers, Arlt said.
The woman was taken to Kaiser Hospital in Sacramento for medical treatment, but did not seem to have serious injuries.
Vizzusi said no criminal charges were expected.