SAN DIEGO – California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) Members and State Park Rangers Mike Dippel and Sasha Wessitsh were recently honored by San Diego Sheriff William Gore for their bravery and response to an elevated call assisting San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies.
“Congratulations to Rangers Dippel and Wessitsh,” said CSLEA President Alan Barcelona. “State park rangers often respond to assist local agencies and are trained in advanced lifesaving. I commend Rangers Dippel and Wessitsh for their courage and dedication to public safety and to their fellow law enforcement officers.”
On the afternoon of January 28, 2015, a disturbance call at a mobile home park in Borrego Springs quickly escalated to a man with a weapon, a fire, a man on fire, and ammunition exploding in that fire.The disturbance was between two men, ages 65 and 54. The two men were struggling over a small sword and both had been injured in the struggle. The men separated and went to their respective residences within the mobile home park.
State Park Rangers Mike Dippel and Sasha Wessitsh from Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area were two of the several park rangers who responded to the sheriff’s department’s request for assistance. Initial indications were that the 54-year-old was a victim of assault with a deadly weapon.
Rangers Dippel and Wessitch accompanied Deputy Alvin Vasquez to the 65-year-old’s residence. Deputy Vasquez confronted the man, who was sitting in the front room of his home, and ordered him to stand up and walk outside toward them. The man stood up, brandished a knife, then turned away from Deputy Vasquez and ran further into the residence, locking an interior door as he fled. Deputy Vasquez saw the male inside and watched as the he tipped a gasoline can, spreading gasoline around the room and all over himself. At some point, the gasoline ignited and engulfed the man and the room. Deputy Vasquez was eventually able to pull the man, who was on fire, out of the residence.
Once outside, Ranger Wessitch was among those who helped to extinguish the flames burning the man.
The fire inside the residence began to ignite ammunition and the detonations could be heard as Deputy Vasquez and Rangers Dippel and Wessitch helped to pull the man behind a patrol vehicle to administer first aid. Because the scene was not entirely secure, the fire department did not enter the area and the rangers utilized their advanced lifesaving training to begin to medically stabilize the man. The fire continued to grow in intensity and the live ammunition continued to detonate as the rangers were approximately 100 feet from the burning residence. Due to the assistance of Rangers Dippel and Wessitch, firefighting personnel were able to battle the rapidly growing fire and the man was stabilized enough to be flown to a local hospital for treatment of severe burns to a large portion of his body. The man survived through the night at a local hospital, but he died the next day.
Rangers Dippel,and Wessitch showed tremendous courage, as did the other emergency responders, in the performance of their duties while under extremely stressful conditions. As a result of their courage and actions, Sheriff Gore presented Rangers Dippel and Wessitch, as well as other rangers who responded, with a Sheriff’s Certificate of Commendation.