Donald Pelt is used to saving lives and putting out fires, but this week the longtime firefighter had his first career.
Pelt, who started working for Pyramid Lake Fire and Rescue in 1984, helped deliver her first baby.
Just another day at work, Pelt said modestly when asked on Wednesday, when he and fellow firefighter Richard Murrieta ran into a car on the side of the road.
Pelt and Murrieta were on their way to retrieve an ambulance that was being repaired when they heard the call about a possible emergency: a woman was in labor, her water had just broken and the baby was arriving.
Her parents were driving her to a hospital in Reno, but they were miles from Exit 36 of I-80, where Pelt and Murrieta were heading to collect the repaired emergency vehicle. And the dispatch said an ambulance was on its way.
What was unknown to rescuers at the time was that the parents of the laboring mother continued to drive while they called 911.
Pelt and Murrieta took their exit, and there at the side of the road there was a car and people standing around.
It could be the baby car, Pelt thought.
They pulled over and quickly realized Fernley’s mom-to-be Mayra Martinez was ready to deliver in the front passenger seat immediately.
Fortunately, members of Pyramid Lake Fire and Rescue and Storey County Fire Protection District, who later arrived with the ambulance, are trained paramedics.
Pelt and Murrieta didn’t panic even after realizing the baby was running. Pelt grabbed a medical bag and gloves and Murrieta prepared to deliver.
And, just like in the movies, they told Martinez to breathe and push while his parents and eldest child waited nearby.
“She’s a girl and she’s breathing,” Murrieta announced a few minutes later.
“It was a delivery of manuals,” said Pelt, who called dispatchers to redirect the ambulance, which was heading in the wrong direction.
“You never know what might happen, but the mother was calm and everything went exactly as it should,” he said.
When the Storey County ambulance arrived, Murrieta went with Martinez and her new baby to Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center, while Pelt followed.
The four firefighters posed for a photo with new baby Camilah at the hospital, and the story was shared on social media by both fire departments.
“It’s always a great day when you can save a life,” Pelt said.
But Wednesday ranks as one of the best of his career. “It’s also great to help bring new life to the world.”
Siobhan McAndrew tells stories about the people of northern Nevada and covers education in Washoe County. Read his journalism here. Consider supporting his work by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal.