BRANDYWINE, MD (WUSA9) - It’s hard enough trying to save someone from a burning car … and then add that flaming car speeding away to that rescue.
The car then slams into a ditch, the flames growing.
An off-duty firefighter pulled a woman from exactly this a little over a year ago and is now getting a big honor for those heroics.
“I was able to unstrap her seatbelt and reach over and actually had to get over and pick her out, pick her up out the driver seat and pull her across the passenger,” said Prince George’s County Assistant Fire Chief Darren Ware.
Seconds later, Ware says the flames completely engulfed the car.
It was April 20, 2016 when the Assistant Chief, off duty at the time, had just left the funeral for Fallen Firefighter John Ulmschneider. He spotted the car smoking on the side of the road.
“I tried to knock and at the same time pulling the door to see if it was open but it was no response,” said Ware. The woman had suffered a medical issue.
A deputy fire chief and a Good Samaritan stopped shortly after. The Good Samaritan gave Ware a tool and together, they broke through the driver side window. That’s when Ware says the unresponsive woman unexpectedly stomped on the gas and raced down the hill on Rt. 301 near Brandywine Rd.
It ended up on its side in a ditch along Rt. 301, just as it’s seen on cell phone video. Ware then broke through the passenger-side window and pulled her out.
The Assistant Chief says he’s been in Prince George’s County since 1995, for 22 years. He was in the military before then.
Ware calls this rescue a first and received county honors for it last week, but August is the big one!
Ware on the American Legion National Firefighter of the Year award for his brave rescue.
Side note: According to its website, the American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic, veteran’s organization. There’s 2.4 million members. Each Department can only nominate one person a year for the firefighter of the year award.
It’s a huge honor but Ware also says there’s a lot of good things being doing that don’t always get recognized.
“The main thing I would say is that we all here to job and it really doesn’t matter who gets the award we just all here to do a job and do the best we can to protect and serve the public,” said the Assistant Chief.
To this day, he’s never met the woman he saved. If you’re out there, he hopes you’re doing well. He also says a thanks to that unknown Good Samaratin.
We also learned how the car caught fire. PGFD Spokesperson Mark Brady tells WUSA 9 the car had been idling for so long, the underside ignited dry grass.
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