EDITOR’S NOTE: EastIdahoNews.com is teaming up with the American Red Cross of Greater Idaho to honor ordinary individuals who have done extraordinary things to help others.
The 11 winners of the 2017 East Idaho Real Heroes awards were announced March 2. Each day EastIdahoNews.com will feature a different winner.
IDAHO FALLS — Two Idaho Falls firefighters were honored by the American Red Cross of Greater Idaho Thursday for saving a tortoise from a fire.
Yoda has been Mrs. Kimberly Martin’s third grade classroom pet at Fairview Elementary for the past four years.
Hundreds of students have fallen in love with the Russian tortoise but his life was nearly cut short after his aquarium heating pad became too hot and started a fire in the classroom early one December morning.
“Crews arrived to a lot of smoke in the classroom and they found the turtle in its habitat that was pretty close to expiring,” Idaho Falls Fire Battalion Chief Lance Johnson tells EastIdahoNews.com.
Firefighters Chet Pugmire and Dan Jorgensen pulled the turtle out of the smoky classroom, put him in an ambulance and snapped a photo that quickly went viral.
“It amazed me how quick the picture spread,” Martin recalls. “It went to England and Australia and all over the world. Yoda was a celebrity and didn’t even know it!”
The classroom sustained minimal damage and Yoda recovered from his near-death experience.
The American Red Cross of Greater Idaho selected Pugmire and Jorgensen as two of their “East Idaho Real Heroes” for 2017. They were honored during a luncheon in Idaho Falls Thursday.
To thank them, Martin’s students made a large card for the firefighters, took them some turtle chocolates and expressed their gratitude that Yoda is still here.
“I was so grateful that our school was saved by the firefighters and that Yoda survived,” Martin says.
Conner Board, KPVI
Kris Millgate, Tight Line Media
Paul Menser, BizMojo Idaho
Stephan Rockefeller, EastIdahoNews.com