ROSELLE PARK, NJ – Emergency responders tussled with a man who refused to leave a parked car engulfed in flames in the early hours of May 5. 

According to police, the initial call about the vehicle parked on the 100 Block of West Lincoln Avenue reported 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.

Patrolmen Robert Harms, Michael Smith, Jeffery Smith and Avsar Patel responded to the location with the Roselle Park Fire Department.  

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The vehicle’s engine compartment was engulfed in flames by the time police and fire arrived on the scene. Police said the doors were closed and the passenger compartment was obscured by dark tinted windows making visibility inside impossible.  

Harms  broke a window and was then able to see the silhouette of a head in the driver’s seat through the thick black smoke.  Police said the 42-year-old man with a last known address of Everett, WA refused to get out and appeared disoriented and resisted efforts to remove him from the burning vehicle.  

Once police opened the door, they physically removed the man who was slumped over the steering wheel and dragged him to safety. Once outside, the driver was alert and speaking. The man was transported to Trinitas Hospital for further evaluation. 

Police Chief Paul W. Morrison was glad local citizens reported the incident and his officers were able to have a good outcome.   “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,” said Morrison.   “Patrolman Robert Harms, Department 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 Union County Arson Squad and the Union County Sheriff’s Crime Scene and Identification Unit for arrived on the scene for further investigation. 

According to officials, 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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