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Hero Who Drove Through Flames to Protect Children From Wildfire Invited to State of the Union

David Dahlberg sheltered with children and staff members at Circle V camp during the Whittier fire

A Southern California fire prevention technician who drove through a tunnel of flames to save children and camp staff members from a wildfire was a guest at Tuesday night's State of the Union address in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Forest Service member Dave Dahlberg was honored for his actions during the Whittier fire, which began July 8 in the Lake Cachuma area in Santa Barbara County. He was one of several guests invited to sit with First Lady Melania Trump during President Donald Trump's speech. 

Dahlberg, of Santa Maria, helped protect about 60 children and staff members as they sheltered-in-place at Circle V Ranch during the fire, one of several that broke out during a hot, dry summer in Southern California. He navigated through smoke, flames and debris along a narrow winding road to the campsite as it was encircled by fire. 

Dashcam video showed the harrowing conditions near the ranch as the fire chewed through dry brush and trees. As deputies turned back, Dahlberg -- familiar with the area -- was able to drive on to the camp. 

Flames were about 600 feet away as he sheltered with children and camp staff members in the camp dining hall. The attack on the fire continued outside, with water-dropping helicopters overhead and a bulldozer creating a fire line around the camp. 

As fire approached the back of the building, more rescuers arrived with vehicles to take children and staff members to safety.

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