FJH student and security officer step into action
FJH student and security officer step into action
Posted on 05/24/2019
Security Officer Dan Spicer

Ferrucci Junior High School Security Officer Dan Spicer says he was just at the right place at the right time. Others call him a hero.

On Thursday, May 9, Spicer did what some people might not have the foresight, strength, or courage to do. He ran into a burning house to rescue a woman who was unable to get out by herself.  

Sixth grader Katherine Mangrum was outside near the football field for PE class when she noticed the smoke. Unfortunately, smoke and fire are not unfamiliar to her. Katherine and her family moved to Washington after they lost their house and entire community in California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire, the Camp Fire in Butte County. Her experience taught her the smoke she was seeing wasn’t from a BBQ or a burn barrel, she knew this could be serious. She immediately informed her teacher.

From another area of the school, Spicer heard over the radio teacher Le Anne Horne informing the office there is smoke near the field and they are calling 911. Knowing there were students outside Spicer headed towards the field to assess the situation. His concern at that time was if the students needed to be off the field. When he approached the field, Horne was on the radio and teacher Aaron Watt was on his cell phone calling 911.

The smoke grew thicker and darker. Spicer walked to the fence-line of the school, and he could clearly see through the dense black smoke that a house was on fire. He saw an elderly man outside the house who seemed to be confused and disoriented, and then he saw the man turn towards the house.

Through the fence gate, Spicer ran towards the house. Although he heard the sirens from a firetruck, he did not see the truck or know how close it was. The elderly man entered the house. As Spicer continued to sprint towards the house he saw a neighbor standing in the street on the phone. Maintaining his sprint towards the house, Spicer asked her if there is anyone else in the house. “He is trying to get his wife out,” she replied. Before reaching the front door, the elderly man came back out of the house alone.Dan with son Robert

Without hesitation, Spicer ran into the house and was immediately hit with thick dark smoke, the daylight had disappeared and it was complete darkness. Spicer scrunched down to get underneath the smoke. With his flashlight he looked around the room. He heard several birds in cages shrieking and flapping their wings erratically, obviously scared. He knew someone was in the house, but the noise of the birds made it hard for him to hear anything. He called out, “Is there anyone in the house? You need to get out now.” Towards his left he heard a faint voice, “I’m here, I’m trying.” He flashed the light towards the sound, and approximately five feet away down the hall he could see the silhouette of a woman. She was leaning against the wall, not moving.

The elderly man entered the house again in an effort to help his wife. Spicer directed him to go outside immediately and told him he will help his wife. Trying to remain under the blanket of thick smoke, Spicer reached the woman. He put his hands under her arms and helped her move towards the front door.

Within minutes the fire had spread to the awning of the house, and the smoke had grown so dark and dense that Spicer could almost taste it.  

As they crossed the threshold, Spicer was able to see daylight for the first time since entering the house. Outside he saw that the fire department had arrived.

Spicer brought the woman across the cul-de-sac onto the grass where she was able to lie down and rest.

The couple were immediately check out by the firemen and were then transported to the hospital for further evaluation. They both recovered and were released. They are staying in a hotel temporarily until their house is habitable.

That was the last time Spicer saw the couple. “I was doing what I thought was the right thing to do, getting everyone out of the house. I look back on it and there is nothing I would do differently. Being in this job it is all about serving; serving the students, serving the staff, and serving the community,” said Spicer.

Spicer is a humble man, even after his heroic deed, he doesn’t want the title of “hero.” He is quick to get the spotlight off of him saying, “If it wasn’t for the observant sixth grader, Katherine, we wouldn’t have known what was happening.” 

Still thinking of others, Spicer reached out to the Fireman Chaplin to see if there was anything the Ferrucci community could do or resources they have to help the couple. “I want to make sure they are still okay and can get back on their feet.”

Dan Spicer has been in the Puyallup School District for 21 years. He began his career as night patrol before working at Rogers High School, followed by Emerald Ridge High School. In 2006 he transferred to Ferrucci Junior High School.

Dan with artworkAfter the fire, Spicer’s first priority was to let his family know he was okay. After talking to his wife and seeing his son Robert, a ninth grader at Ferrucci, all he wanted to do was return to work and continue serving. “I was teaching an art lesson for Art Club that afternoon, and I wasn’t about to let the students down,” said Spicer. In addition to teaching an occasional fluid art lesson after school, he is also the assistant wrestling coach.

Ferrucci Junior High Principal Brian Fosnick stated, "I was not surprised to see him take action without thinking about his own safety when a house behind our school caught fire. He never asked for notoriety or recognition from this event.  He told Mike Sanchez, dean of students, and me that he felt like he was just doing his job.  Dan is such a selfless, kind, and courageous person, we feel very lucky to have him keeping an eye on us each day.”

The consensus is Dan Spicer was ‘at the right place at the right time” and a hero. The Puyallup School District is proud and honored to have a hero in the community.


Anne Martin