They say people respond in one of three ways when confronted with a threat or emergency – fight, flight, or freeze. Matt Taylor, a Recology residential driver in Eureka, faced that challenge shortly before sunrise Tuesday morning – and took action.
Taylor was tipping bins on his route at first light on Aug. 10. As he drove his collection truck out of an alley, Taylor's eyes caught a plume of smoke coming from about a block away.
He immediately drove to the house it was coming from. Taylor stopped his truck, set the parking brake, saw a resident standing across the street, and yelled, “Did you call 911?”
“Yes,” the bystander said.
Taylor asked, “Do people live here?” The neighbor answered, “Yes.”
That's when Taylor jumped out of his truck and ran to the house. He pounded on the front door and shouted for the people inside to come out.
The 17-year-old granddaughter of Catherine Bauer, owner of the house, heard Taylor’s pounding and shouting. The granddaughter woke up Bauer, and she came to the front door. That’s when Taylor told Bauer, “Your house is on fire! Get out now!”
Bauer, her two adult sons, and her granddaughter started evacuating. One of the sons carried the family dog.
Two fire engines arrived as the family escaped their home unharmed.
Taylor later returned to Catherine Bauer’s home to pick up their trash.
Catherine’s daughter-in-law Maridee Farmer said, were it not for Taylor’s actions, they “couldn’t imagine how this would have turned out.”
Taylor is a lifelong resident of Eureka and has worked for Recology Humboldt County for 14 years, according to the company.
"Not only does he service the neighborhood where he spotted the second-story fire, Matt grew up about a block away. He remembers playing as a child in a tree that is still standing across the street from Catherine’s house," Recology said in a press release Friday.
“Matt cares a lot about his customers and his community, and today he showed himself to also be a man of courage,” Operations Manager Frank Nelson said.
General manager Linda Wise added, “I’m not surprised Matt would come to someone’s rescue. He has found keys, cell phones, wallets and has sought to get them back to their owners. Most, if not all, of our drivers are like that, looking out for the people on their routes. Matt has made his family and Recology very proud.”
Taylor is married with three sons, ages 16, 11, and 9. He has an outstanding attendance record at work and is always willing to take on extra shifts when needed, his company said. He also participates in community service projects coordinated by Recology, an employee-owned company. When not working, Taylor enjoys family activities and outings, including rock climbing.