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North Salem Highway Worker Extinguishes Fire

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Rich Schreiber had just made the final repair to a used truck, newly acquired by the Highway Department . He welded a hole in the step support on the passenger side, stepped back to admire his work and then went to make lunch. It was 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday.

"All of a sudden I smelled something that wasn't normal. Then I saw a big orange ball of fire on the right side of the truck," he said. "Lucky we had a fire extinguisher nearby! I grabbed the extinguisher and managed to save the truck -- and the building."

Meanwhile, the Croton Falls Fire Department was alerted. They responded, along with the Goldens Bridge and Somers departments.

"The truck was not totaled," said Schreiber. "Only the driver's seat was destroyed. But I couldn't believe how big the fire ball was. Could you imagine? Twenty-eight years I've been fixing trucks. This is my first fire. I guess there's always a first time."

Schreiber had an important word of advice for all do-it-yourselfers: Never weld or use a torch without sticking around for a half-hour to check it. "If I had finished the job at 2:45, we would have been gone for the day," he said.

The North Salem Highway Department maintains all of town roads and drainage systems and removes snow and ice on town, state and county roads within the town limits. It has a crew of 12 men plus a superintendent, deputy superintendent and administrative assistant.

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