Last November, Highway Contract Route Carrier Tim Howard began his rural delivery route as he had most days of his16-year career. But a quarter of the way through his route, he began experiencing car trouble while climbing a steep hill. He got out of the car to inspect it, then called his father for a ride. As soon as he got off the phone, Howard noticed flames shooting out from under his car.
Several customers on his route came to his aid by calling the local Fire Department and urging him to stay away from the vehicle. But the only thing that Howard could think of was making sure the mail was safe and secure. So he went back to his car and opened the hatch. As soon as he did, a thick cloud of smoke ushered out, so he hurriedly grabbed all the tubs and trays of mail before the flames could overtake it.
By this time, Sacramento District’s Placerville Postmaster Paulette Mahoney arrived on the scene to assess the damage and ensure Howard’s safety. The Fire Department arrived and put out the flames. The carrier was safe, all mail was secure, but the car was not salvageable. A tow truck towed the car away just as Howard’s father was pulling up in his car.
Howard transferred all the mail he saved into his father’s car and the two of them went in one direction to finish delivering the route while his car was being towed in the opposite direction.
“I was relieved that Tim was ok,” said Mahoney. “I was taken aback by his dedication. Even through this horrific, potentially life-threatening situation, he remained calm, and what was foremost on his mind was the security of the mail. He truly is a hero.”
“I don’t consider myself a hero, I just did what needed to be done,” said Howard. “Looking back I can now laugh about what happened to my car, but at the time, it was a scary ordeal. But, I feel really good about all the help I received from my customers and especially for being able to save all the mail.”