Dan and Linda Garcher with plaques presented to them by the Keizer Fire District for their heroic efforts to save the lives of their neighbors (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
The last thing Dan and Linda Garcher were thinking about on the morning of March 3rd was themselves, which is why Keizer Fire District felt the need to properly honor them six months later.
At the KFD board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 17, Dan and Linda, as well as their dog, Tobias, were presented with the Bob Wickman Award For Heroism in Saving The Life of Another, for their actions during a fire that took place at the Rainbow Gardens Mobile Village.
“Risking life and limb and their own safety, they rushed to help their neighbors in a time of crisis,” said Keizer Fire Chief Jeff Cowan during the presentation.
Dan and Linda were both emotional upon receiving the award.
“To tell you the truth, I was really nervous, because it brings everything back to the surface. All the thoughts and the feelings. But when they asked us, we were very honored. We didn’t expect it, it just kind of came out of the blue and we kind appreciate it a lot.” Linda said. “I don’t recall even thinking about to be honest. It was our neighbor. We had to go help.”
It was just after 5 a.m. on Sunday, March 3, when Dan and Linda were awoken by loud barking by Tobias. After getting up to see what the commotion was about, they saw that their neighbor’s home was engulfed in flames.
Immediately, Dan and Linda ran over to the house to attempt to save their neighbors, Mate and Maria Mezei.
“(Tobias) knew that something was up,” Linda said. “It was just one of those things where you react.”
While the couple was unable to get Mate out of the burning building, Jeff and Linda were able to save Maria’s life by getting her out of the house.
Linda was able to get out of the fire relatively unscathed, but Dan and Maria weren’t as fortunate.
Dan was burned badly all over his back, shoulders head and arms and both he and Maria were rushed to the hospital.
“With the adrenaline going, you don’t really think about it, but by the time I got out, I started feeling it. I knew I had gotten cooked pretty good,” said Dan.
Dan and Maria each spent nearly three weeks in the hospital. Even after returning home, Dan still had to be treated for his wounds. But all things considered, Dan still feels pretty lucky.
“The healing process that have you go through was pretty fast and easy. There are a lot of people who aren’t as fortunate,” Dan said.
Though this experience has been incredibly traumatic, it has given Dan a new lease on life.
“It gives you a lot more humility every day. Now, I’m happy to get up and go to work,” Dan said
Dan and Linda have also become a lot closer with Maria, who now lives with her daughter, Imola.
“The unity since then has been amazing. We see each other and talk to each other as much as we can,” Linda said.
People at Rainbow
Gardens Park rallied around the Garcher’s upon Dan’s return home, showering the couple with hot meals and well wishes, as well as finding a newfound respect for their brave neighbors.
“Dan was dressed in shorts running into a burning building with total disregard to what is happening around him. Dan’s humility and hard work and shows the type of person that he is. He’s the biggest man I’ve seen in my life,” Rainbow Gardens Park owner Ron Anderson said. “That showed the type of people Dan and Linda are. They had the intestinal fortitude to go in there. They are true heroes.”