HELENA, Mont. — A fire chief died Thursday night after a fire truck and another vehicle collided head-on.
Three Forks Herald reported that Fire Chief Todd Rummel, 44, with Three Forks Fire Department, and four other people, died when the vehicles collided. The vehicles were forced into a ditch, immediately caught fire and melted together.
“A witness who saw the crash happen said it was an instantaneous explosion and nobody got out, so that’s a driver in each vehicle,” Sherriff’s Deputy Bob Gleich said.
Chief Rummel was the lone occupant of the fire truck and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the report. The pickup truck carrying at least four people were also killed.
Chief Rummel, who became chief May 6, was driving the fire truck back to the station after undergoing repairs for a broken pump seal, according to the report.
“Officials planned to call a wrecker service to try to separate what’s out there,” Sherriff Gleich said. “It literally was just all melted together.”
Assistant Chief Keith Aune is acting fire chief in wake of Rummel’s death and assistance from neighboring departments will help handle calls over the next few days, according to the report.
Rummel, a 29-year veteran of the fire service, joined the Three Forks Fire Department in 2006. Within a year of joining Three Forks Fire, Rummel became its training officer. In 2008, he became the department’s battalion chief, a position he held until being elected chief last month, according to the report. He also served as a volunteer at the Haycock Fire Company in Quakerstown, Pa., where he was a lifetime member.
“He was dedicated to the job of firefighting,” Asst. Chief Aune said. “Nobody was as dedicated as Todd.”
Funeral arrangements are pending and the crash is under investigation.