By Janine Puhak
Published January 11, 2019
One California firefighter went all-out in staging a dramatic scene to pop the question to his longtime girlfriend, faking a fire in their home during a family party before getting down on one knee.
Zach Steele and Maddison Ridgik recently welcomed family and friends for a party at their Ventura home, Inside Edition reports, when the playful groom-to-be put his romantic plan into motion. According to the outlet, the 30-year-old firefighter “always planned” to incorporate his colleagues and a fire engine into his marriage proposal to Ridgik.
“Originally I got one smoke machine,” he told the outlet. “I went to test it and there was barely any smoke. One was not going to work, so I had to get more smoke machines.”
Steele ultimately set up six smoke machines in the attic, to create faux-smolder at just the right moment during the soiree.
While the party was in full swing, the firefighter exited the gathering under the guise of picking up more groceries; though in reality, he headed to the Ventura Fire County Department station.
Moments later, Ridgik’s stepdad, Johnny Jenson, turned on the smoke machines, creating a terrifying faux-blaze that spooked guests into evacuating the home and prompting the bride-to-be to panic and call her beau seven times.
A fire truck soon rushed around the corner as Jenson pretended to put out the fire with a hose — and Steele made his move.
"There was way too much smoke, it was crazy. It filled up the attic and the entire garage,” he later told SWNS, as per Metro. “Everyone was in the front yard and I could see Maddison was on the phone panicking. I had seven missed calls [from her]. All the other guys hopped out but I stayed in the engine for about a minute.”
"I could see her back to me as I approached, but I had my mask on so she didn’t recognize me. When I grabbed her waist, she spun around and I took off my mask. She had a look of pure shock and confusion on her face,” he said of his fiancée, a teacher.
"Her hands were shaking as she tried to figure it all out. She turned away from me and [when] she turned back around I was on one knee. I asked her to marry me and thank God she said yes.”
Ridgik, also 30, shared her side of the story.
“A group of us were standing in the kitchen enjoying a glass of wine and some hors-d'oeuvres when my stepdad came into the room and frantically told us we had to get out,” she told SWNS. “I grabbed the dogs and went out front. When we got out there was smoke coming out of all the vents from the attic.”
"When I got outside I saw the smoke coming out of the vent on the front of our house and coming out of the vent on the top of our house,” she continued. “I started to cry the moment I saw the firefighters jump out of the truck with their gear.”
“When Zach walked up to me he had his mask on so I really couldn’t tell. He then took his mask off and walked me into the middle of the yard. I was so confused and I honestly could not sort through my emotions enough to really comprehend what was happening,” she says, as Steele dropped to one knee.
"I was still shaking and crying yet so excited. It was truly the best most indescribable moment of my life,” Ridgik says.
According to the bride-to-be, she and her fiancé have been together for seven and a half years, and she’s been “dreaming of this day” since they first met.
Meanwhile, cheeky Steele says that he couldn’t have pulled off the slightly terrifying stunt without the help of his friends and colleagues at the Ventura County Fire Department — though he claims he has no hijinks planned for the big day.
“I’m not planning any pranks or surprises for our wedding. It will be much less drama,” Steele said.
A March 30, 2019 wedding is planned.