Melville firefighter honored for rescuing man trapped in burning car

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Firefighters across Suffolk County were honored at the Melville Fire Department Sunday, receiving awards for heroic acts in the line of duty.

Among those recognized was third Assistant Chief of the Melville Fire Department, Jason Bernfeld.

Bernfeld received a gold medal for rescuing a man from a burning car in March of last year.

"Just heading to work on the Northern State Parkway, normal rush hour commute. Happened to see something out of the corner of my eye,” he recalls.

He saw the taillight of a car upside down in the woods on the Northern State, right past Round Swamp Road.

"I went down, investigated, I shouted, 'Hey is anybody there?' and somebody shouted out for help. So I was surprised somebody was actually there,” says Bernfeld.

Chief Bernfeld wasn't in a fire truck and he wasn't on duty, but still acted as if he was in uniform responding to a call, selflessly coming to the rescue.

Inside the car was a man, still in the driver's seat, upside down, trapped by the seatbelt - and the car was on fire.

Luckily, Bernfeld had tools in his car.

"Hit the fire with the fire extinguisher to give it some time, cut the seatbelt, got him down out the seat and between him and I got him out of the vehicle,” says Bernfeld.

Bernfeld was able to pull him out before the car became fully engulfed in flames. The firefighter says the man had some burns on his legs and other minor injuries from the crash.

After receiving his gold medal, Bernfeld remained humble.

"It's not what I did it for, I never thought about this at all, I never thought of the enormity of the situation at all, just doing what anybody would do,” he says.

A total of nine medals were awarded to firefighters at Sunday’s ceremony.


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