The cab of the fire engine filled with a bright whiteblue light that snapped and popped with electricity as a paralyzing current ran through the two Rural/Metro firefighters seated in front.
The firetruck had been driven into a dangling power line that was nearly invisible in the dark and stormy early morning hours Wednesday.
Nearby, a woman who crashed her car into a power pole at University Drive and Dewey Street waited for help.
The crew of Engine 859 was responding to the woman, who fell asleep at the wheel and crashed at 1 a.m. in the unincorporated area of east Mesa.
The woman was not seriously injured.
"As we approached, I looked up and saw the power line head right at us. I yelled ‘Power line!’ right as we came into contact with it," said Capt. Paul D’Agostino from his Mesa home Thursday. "There was no getting away from (the electric current). It felt like it picked me up and slammed me against the inside of the truck. I was totally helpless."
The engine’s momentum snapped the wire and cut the current, which saved the firefighters’ lives.
The current did not reach the two firefighters seated in the back of the truck, but it did damage the truck’s electronics, fused the windshield wipers together, cracked the windshield and melted paint.
D’Agostino and the engineer were shaken up — with nickel-size burns that mark where the electricity entered and exited their bodies.
"I’ve been involved in some pretty tight situations. We put ourselves at risk, it’s just part of what we do," D’Agostino said. "Little brushes with your own mortality kind of drive that point home. It’s the only time in my 13 1 /2 years that I’ve wondered if I was going to get out of it."
For your safety
• Do not get out of your vehicle, even if the power line is touching it. You are safest inside.
• Call 911 so the road can be blocked off and electrical crews can be notified
• Do not investigate. Electricity is invisible and can be anywhere.