One man took an dirt road uphill, climbing above the fire and watching as Lahaina burned. He later picked his way through the flames, smoke and rubble to pull survivors to safety.From an article in APnews

I struggle to find a meaning in the dictionary to fit pull here and it seems none works. Does it mean he managed to help the survivors survive the fire? I just want to get it through.

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    I'm a native Anglophone, but I've no idea whether the particular "oone man" here was on foot (implied by "picked his way") or in a car (implied by "took a dirt road"). And did he pull others to safety by attaching a tow rope between his car and theirs? Or did he drag those survivors out of holes by their arms? With his hands, or with a rope? Anything said here is just guesswork. Also not that unless you copied the text sloppily, it's not even valid English to say he took an dirt road uphill (but even if that's just a typo, I'm not convinced the writer is a native Anglophone). Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 12:48
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    Literally to hold hands and draw a victim up and away from fire. Like pull a drowning kid out of the water. Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 12:48

3 Answers 3


I would say this is actually the most common and literal use of the word “pull.” You use the strength of your hands and arms to move something closer to you. (I guess it’s also possible to pull with your legs or teeth, but it would be pretty unusual).

In this case, the person is in a dangerous place (fire), so he pulled the person toward himself to remove them from danger.


"Pull survivors to safety" means to "bring" them to safety as well. It depicts the action of "pulling" as he helps survivors away from the fire. E.g. you pull something away from something else.


The implication in this sentence is that he is physically placing his hands around the bodies of survivors to move the survivors out of a place of danger. The focus of the sentence is on survivors who were buried in rubble who he had to use his hands to remove from the rubble, and on survivors who are unable to move due to smoke inhalation who need to be lifted or dragged with his hands to safety.

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