Passers-by team up to put out a fire in the engine compartment of a motor home on U.S. 101 Tuesday.

Passers-by put out blaze in camper
by Rick Nielsen

OXNARD - A homeless man teamed up with another man who owns a portable car wash business to save a motorhome from being destroyed by fire at the side of the Ventura Freeway near Oxnard, authorities said.

m174.jpg (13204 bytes)Richard Brown of Los Angeles was southbound on U.S. 101 near Rice Avenue at 3 p.m. Tuesday when a fire broke out in the engine compartment of his motorhome, a Ventura County Fire Department spokesman said.

Brown, general manager of Courtyard by Marriott in El Segundo, told firefighters he was returning home from a camping trip in Santa Barbara.

Lance Winslow of Oxnard, owner of "The Car Wash Guys," said he saw the fire and stopped.

m176.jpg (13027 bytes)He said a homeless man, known only as "Benji," removed his backpack, jumped over a fence, and with fire extinguishers given him by passing motorists, tried to fight the fire.

"We were unable to open the hood," Winslow said.

Despite heavy smoke, the homeless man entered the cab of the motorhome and unlatched the hood, Winslow said.

The hood, however, was stuck and the homeless man grabbed a shovel and forced it open," Winslow said.

He said while he was using the 60 gallons of water from his portable tank, the homeless man shoveled dirt onto the flames.

m175.jpg (12356 bytes)

"We had the fire out by the time firefighters arrived at the scene," Winslow said.

Firefighters said the fire was confined to the engine compartment, but there was smoke damage throughout the motorhome.

Brown was not available for comment.

Reprinted from Oxnard Press-Courier, September 2, 1993.

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