Lonnie Wimmer doesn’t need his uniform to save lives.
A firefighter in Lewisville, North Carolina, Wimmer wasn’t on duty Saturday night when he joined friends for dinner at River Ridge Tap House in Clemmons, but his instincts were.
After about an hour and half at the restaurant, Wimmer looked around and realized that something was not right. Guests were starting to feel nauseous, complaining about headaches and even beginning to feel chest pain. Suspecting a carbon monoxide leak, he called up his station to have them come check it out.
At least 12 fire officials responded to the call and confirmed Wimmer’s hypothesis. They found a high level of CO inside the restaurant and evacuated 30 occupants. According to CBS News, 16 patrons were transferred to local hospitals with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
“CO is truly the ‘silent killer’ because you can’t detect it —you can’t smell it,” Steve Williams, assistant fire chief for the department, told CBS News. “Or you wait until you start getting sick, flu-like symptoms. A lot of people will think they got the flu and not start getting treatment.”
It turns out that the carbon monoxide leak was caused by a broken heating unit. The restaurant was temporarily closed while a technician fixed the heater and workers were able to air out the place.
Wimmer, who has been with the Lewisville Fire Department for two years now, is quite modest about it all, although his friends and colleagues are calling him a hero.
“I’m just glad it all worked out for the best interest in everybody and that it wasn’t any worse,” Williams said.