A traffic accident in January left a tractor-trailer carrying 9,500 gallons of heating oil overturned in front of the Belgrade, ME, Post Office.
As the wreckage burst into flames and the building was evacuated, Rural Carrier Joseph Arsenault Jr. and Rural Carrier Associate Nicholas Claudel quickly realized that employees weren’t the only ones in danger: The driver of the fuel truck was trapped.
Arsenault and Claudel rushed over and pulled the man to safety. Within a moment, the tanker erupted into what the local fire chief described as a 50-foot-high wall of flames unlike anything he’d seen in his three-decade career.
Edward F. Phelan Jr., who was serving as Northeast Area vice president at the time, visited Belgrade to commend Arsenault and Claudel in person.
“You guys acted in an instant to save somebody’s life,” Phelan said.
Arsenault, a Marine Corps veteran, and Claudel, an Army National Guard veteran, told the Portland Press Herald that their military backgrounds made a difference that day.
“I think that training kicked right in, with the instinct to save a human life,” Claudel said.
The Belgrade Post Office sustained heat damage during the incident.