JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
It was 7:30 p.m. July 13 when two Airmen on their way home from a gas station became unexpected heroes. What began as a normal Monday evening for the two air traffic controllers stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland ended with several lives being saved.
Airman 1st Class Brian Hallock and Airman 1st Class Sebastian Flores of the 502nd Operational Support Squadron were headed home when they saw heavy smoke coming from their neighborhood.
“I initially thought it was a campfire,” Hallock said. “But, as we got closer, the smoke was getting bigger and darker.”
The roommates followed the smoke deeper into their southwest San Antonio neighborhood and the trail led them right to the house in danger.
“The garage door was half raised with large amounts of smoke billowing out,” Flores said. “There was a red glow as the flames began to engulf the right side of the garage wall.”
Worst of all, the Airmen saw nobody outside the house and they didn’t know if anyone was inside.
The pair quickly got out of their car and approached the house. Flores called 911, while Hallock went to bang on the door.
Flores gave the dispatcher all of the details he could see while Hallock kept banging on the door and ringing the doorbell, getting no answer.
As Flores got closer, he noticed several barbeque grills on the left side of the garage, all connected to propane tanks. He knew that if the tanks were to get hot enough, the gas might be released and the flames would grow much bigger.
Hallock continued to bang on the door and rang the doorbell, before trying to open the door and finding it unlocked. He stepped inside and started to shout to see if anyone was in blazing home. That is when he found the occupants completely unaware of what was happening.
“I heard voices upstairs,” Hallock recalled. “I told them to make sure they had everyone and run out of the house.”
Outside, Flores was telling passersby to alert people in nearby homes to evacuate, in case the flames spread.
When Hallock and the residents emerged from the house, he checked to make sure everyone, including pets, was evacuated. Flores urged them all to go to the other side of the street, in case the propane tanks ignited.
When they got across the street, that’s exactly what happened.
“About two minutes after we had crossed the street, two of the propane tanks had ignited, creating massive flames and further increasing the spread of the fire,” Flores said. “The fire department pulled up about three minutes after the propane had ignited and began to suppress the fire.”
The fire department extinguished the fire, while Hallock and Flores stayed with the family for 20 to 30 minutes, until other family members arrived to stay with them.
In the end, the home’s inhabitants were all fine, but the house was not, as there was severe ceiling and wall damage.
For their heroic service, Haddock and Flores have been nominated by their leadership for the 2020 Geico Military Service Award, which recognizes enlisted active duty, Reserve, or National Guard members from all military service branches for contributions to military or private-sector communities. The pair have also received coins from Brig. Gen. Caroline M. Miller, 502nd Air Base Wing and JBSA commander, and Maj. Gen. William A. Spangenthal, Air Education Command deputy commander.
At the squadron level, Hallock and Flores were named Spartans of the Week. They are also being nominated for a U.S. Air Force Airman’s Medal.
Hallock, who has wanted to serve his country in the Air Force since he was 14, insists he didn’t do anything special, and would not call himself a hero.
“I was just glad to know that the family inside made it out without harm,” he said. “It was just my first instinct in seeing the situation, to come up with a quick plan, and then execute it.”