NEVADA CITY, Calif. August 18, 2023 – Nevada County Connects bus driver Ahmer Al-Kayyali was on his route to North San Juan yesterday, just past the 49 bridge, when he saw several cars pulled over. Then, he saw smoke and a roadside fire. “I had no passengers on the bus, so I pulled over, grabbed the fire extinguisher and started spraying the fire.”

Ahmer Al-Kayyali
Ahmer Al-Kayyali, back on his bus today.

Al-Kayyali said he tried to extinguish the fire with the help of the people who had stopped. Then, a UPS driver arrived and added his fire extinguisher to the effort.

“When our extinguishers were empty, somebody came down the road and said there was another fire further up the road. I ran back to the bus and radioed our dispatch and explained what was happening. They contacted 911.”

Everyone on the roadside then ran up to the second spot and tried to extinguish it, Al-Kayyali said. “The fire extinguishers were empty, but we kicked dirt on the fire. By that time, it was already burning down the hill and growing fast.”

At 6:18 pm, a full wildland dispatch went out for a roadside fire on the North San Juan side of Hwy 49. Dubbed the Reader Fire because of its proximity to Reader Ranch Road, the fire turned out to be four separate spots.

The first emergency responders to arrive were Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies. They told everyone that fire crews were on the way. “I thought to myself, these engines will need space to access the fire, so I got back on my bus and drove off to finish my route,” Al-Kayyali said when we reached him on a break from his shift today. The Lake of the Pines resident has worked for Nevada County Connects for two years. “I’m glad I could help. As county bus drivers, we receive safety training every year, including how to use a fire extinguisher efficiently.”

His Supervisor Steven Long, who relayed the information to 911 said he and his whole department are proud of Al-Kayyali’s actions. “I thought it was amazing,” Long was quoted in a press release.

Asked if he realized his actions prevented the fire from becoming a major incident, Al-Kayyali said, “Honestly, it felt good to be able to do something. With all the fires we had these past few years, I’m glad this one didn’t take off. We all did what we could, I believe anybody would have done the same thing.”

Shortly after arriving at scene, firefighters on the ground and air support made short work of the three remaining fires between Reader Ranch Road and Tyler Foote.