Mel Giesbrecht calls them his “buddies for life,” the four construction workers who saved his classic 1965 Pontiac GTO from being destroyed by fire.
Giesbrecht, an Abbotsford resident, was driving his $75,000 restored muscle car in for a tune-up earlier this summer on Highway 1 when he smelled something burning coming from under the dashboard.
By the time he pulled over at the McCallum Road exit, flames were coming from the engine compartment.
“I was choking on the smoke.”
As Giesbrecht tried to smother the flames with his hands, then with his shirt and the floor mats, “car after car after car passed” without offering help. The only driver who did stop gave him a bottle of water but it wasn’t enough.
Jaap Wullschleger and co-workers Derrick Mozak, Kyle Floris and Kelly Schmidt were applying finishing touches to the new Cabela’s store site next to the off-ramp when they noticed Giesbrecht.
At first, it looked like the car had overheated, Wullschleger said. But then when they realized the classic muscle car was burning, they grabbed some fire extinguishers and headed over.
“I thought, ‘Holy smoke! Fire is going to happen,’ ” Mozak said.
“One went to the driver’s side, one went to the passenger’s side and the fire was out,” Giesbrecht told The News.
“We filled it up with fire retardant,” Wullschleger said.
Floris had grabbed the five-gallon jug from the worksite water cooler and doused the engine compartment with it, just to be sure.
Giesbrecht said the fire department arrived a few minutes later, but they would have been too late to save his GTO.
“The car would have been a total write-off for sure.”
Recently, Giesbrecht paid the four a visit at a Townline Road construction site to say thanks. He told them the car was repairable, and the work will be done in September.
There was only smoke damage thanks to the quick-acting construction crew, he said. The fire appears to have started in a wiring harness, he said.
The crew was glad to hear the car was salvageable and disinclined to take too much credit for intervening.
“You just do it without thinking,” Mozak said.
“That’s what they (fire extinguishers) are there for,” Wullschleger said.
“I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you and thank you again,” Giesbrecht said. “You saved my car.”
(Photo below by Dan Ferguson shows the aftermath of the fire. Mel Giesbrecht is standing next to his car, which managed to escape destruction, thanks to the efforts of four men working nearby.)