A teenager who has been active in the Pasadena Firefighter Explorer Program and aspires to become a firefighter suffered severe burns over most of her body after a dune buggy she was riding flipped over in the Nevada desert and burst into flames.
The girl, America Salmeron, 17, managed to escape by crawling under the burning vehicle before it exploded. Sustaining second and third-degree burns to 51 percent of her body, Salmeron is now in a burn center and is receiving support from her community as she looks to recover and pursue her dreams.
“I saw death in front of my eyes, and I didn’t know what to do, but I told myself that if I don’t get myself out of here, no one will,” Salmeron told KTLA.
The Pasadena Firefighter Explorer Program, of which Salmeron is part of, is designed to train and inspire the next generation of firefighters. She was also in the process of interviewing to become a sponsored cadet at the Verdugo Fire Academy before the accident.
“America embodies everything that the Pasadena Firefighter Explorer Program is,” Pasadena Fire Capt. Arno Avakian said on KTLA. “She’s a hard worker, she’s driven, positive attitude, always willing to help others.”
Salmeron’s journey toward becoming a firefighter will be delayed as she faces a long road to recovery. But she remains steadfast in her determination.
“When I felt the heat after it flipped over, I told myself this was the end,” she said via Zoom on KABC. “But then I said I can’t just sit here. I managed to get out.”
Support for Salmeron has been pouring in from the Pasadena Fire Department and the community. Members of the department have started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for America and her family to cover the costs of her long-term medical care. As of Tuesday morning, the page has already raised $38,431 out a $75,000 goal.
“We want to do all we can to support her mother and her,” Pasadena Fire Deputy Chief Tim Sell told Pasadena Now. “The department wants to do whatever we can do to support her dreams and aspirations.”
Sell said the department’s Chaplain planned a trip to Las Vegas to meet with Salmeron.
“She was in a very tragic situation and she fought tooth and nail to get herself out of it, and that is just a testament to who she is,” Capt. Avakian said on KABC. “She is a princess warrior.”
Salmeron recently graduated from Pasadena High School and was in line to attend Pasadena City College, the GoFundMe page reads. She was going to start working on her A.S. degree in Fire Science and was preparing for an EMT class as well. She has been a standout Explorer with the Pasadena Fire Department for over 18 months.
Contributions can be made to America Salmeron’s GoFundMe page, www.gofundme.com/f/america-salmeron-recovery-efforts.