ROSELLE PARK, NJ - After a report of a parked car on fire, police, and firemen arrive and rescue a man who was slumped over the steering wheel and refused to exit the vehicle.

According to police, the fire took place on May 5, at 7:41 a.m. when they received several calls concerning a vehicle parked on the 100 Block of West Lincoln Avenue. While it was initially reported as a strange noise coming from a vehicle causing a smoke condition, the caller also said that reported the car was possibly occupied.  A second 911 call reported that the vehicle was on fire.

According to authorities, Patrolmen Robert Harms, Michael Smith, Jeffery Smith and Avsar Patel responded to the location and the Roselle Park Fire Department were dispatched.  

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Once on scene, it was found that the vehicle engine compartment was engulfed in flames. Police said the passenger compartment was closed and obscured by dark tinted windows making visibility inside impossible.  

Police said, Ptl. Harms struck and broke a window to see inside the passenger compartment which was now filled with thick black smoke.  Ptl. Harms was then able to see the silhouette of a head in the driver’s seat of the vehicle.  

Police said the 42-year-old man with a last known address of Everett, WA refused to get out and appeared disoriented and resisted the officer’s efforts to remove him from the burning vehicle.  

Police said, the officer opened the driver’s door and with the assistance of Deputy Chief #2 Steven Thompson, they physically removed a man from the vehicle, who was slumped over the steering wheel and dragged him to safety. Once outside, the driver was alert and speaking. The man did not suffer any visible serious injuries and was transported to Trinitas Hospital for further evaluation. 

Police Chief Paul W. Morrison stated “I would like to commend and thank the alert citizen for first reporting the incident before the fire actually began.  This is a great example of, ‘IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING.’ Citizens who take an active role in our communities keep us all safe and can actually save lives.  Ptl. Robert Harms, Dep. Chief Steven Thompson and the other officers put themselves at great risk of injury to save this man’s life.  The heroic efforts of all involved played an instrumental part in the positive outcome of this incident.  There could have been a very different and possibly tragic ending to this incident if it had not been for the quick actions of Officer Robert Harms and the heroic act of Harms and Deputy Chief Thompson in risking personal injury to protect the life of another.”

The scene was then turned over to the Union County Arson Squad and the Union County Sheriff’s Crime Scene and Identification Unit for investigation.  Preliminary information indicates the driver has been previously observed sleeping inside of the running vehicle for extended hours and may have pressed on the gas pedal for an extended period of time causing the engine to overheat and eventually catch fire.

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