Off-duty firefighters pull boy from burning SUV

July 20, 2009 5:52:15 PM PDT
Two Milwaukee firefighters can claim credit for a heroic off-duty rescue. They were in a crowd that worked to pull a mother and her two young children from a burning SUV Sunday.

Police say the woman had been driving the SUV when it left the street, hit a tree and burst into flames. Video of the rescue shows a group of people surrounding the burning car. One man tried to kick in the windshield, and two others used pipes to break it. The crowd then pulled the woman and her 2-year-old daughter from the flames.

Still trapped inside was the woman's 4-year-old son. Off-duty firefighter Joel Rechlitz told NBC's "Today" show that it was a "horrific" scene. He says the car was "engulfed in flames," and that all he could see was the face of the child inside.

He and a police officer used fire extinguishers to hold back flames, as his brother John -- also an off-duty firefighter -- reached into the vehicle.

He couldn't find the seat belt release to free the boy, and eventually cut the car seat's restraints. The 4-year-old is in critical condition with burns to 30 percent of his body.

The Rechlitz brothers were treated for burns to their hands and arms.

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