Tinker man sacrifices overtime pay to save his neighbors’ lives

  • Published
  • By Mike W. Ray
  • Tinker Public Affairs
A Tinker employee lost eight hours of Christmas overtime pay to save six lives.

Caleb Dobbs, an oxygen system mechanic with the 550th Commodities Maintenance Squadron, 76th Maintenance Wing, said he has no regrets about his spur-of-the-moment decision.

Mr. Dobbs, who has lived in Noble for almost two years, said he awoke about 4:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, in order to put in some overtime hours in the Oxygen Shop, Bldg. 1055. Shortly after 5 a.m., while starting his car to leave for Tinker AFB, Mr. Dobbs saw flames "shooting over the roof" of a house in his cul-de-sac.

He immediately dialed 9-1-1 to report the fire, then raced to the house and beat on the front door. "I think I scared them -- especially when I shouted, 'Your house is on fire!'"

Four people soon emerged from the residence, and a police officer rousted two others, Noble Fire Department records reflect. Mr. Dobbs said he lent his jacket to a 13-year-old boy who had been "sound asleep" in the house when the fire broke out, and the youth's uncle "shook my hand" for sounding the alarm. No injuries were reported in the incident.

Apparently the blaze started in a smoldering piece of furniture sitting near an outdoor trash can, said Maj. Phil Scott of the Noble Fire Department.

The fire was contained to the garage, which sustained extensive damage from the flames and was a total loss, he said. The rest of the house "seemed to be fine except for smoke damage and the electrical wiring," he added.

The fire was extinguished in about 35 minutes, and the damage estimate was set at $75,000, Major Scott said.

Mr. Dobbs called his supervisor in charge that morning, Kimberly Stramski of the 550th CMMXS, to inform her that he wouldn't be in to work that day because of the house fire in his neighborhood.

"He gave up eight hours of time-and-a-half pay this close to Christmas, to save people's lives," said Charles Derby, unit chief in the Oxygen Shop, 550th CMMXS. "We're proud of him."

Mr. Dobbs, 26, is married and has two daughters. He has been employed at Tinker AFB for five years.