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Off-Duty Firefighter Rescues Woman From Burning Car

SALEM, NH (CBS) - It was an unexpected call to duty for Salem, New Hampshire firefighter Michael Galipeau who was driving home from his shift on Route 111 in neighboring Windham and came across a fiery car crash.

Flames were shooting from one of three vehicles involved, the female driver stuck inside by her seatbelt that had to be cut.

"I couldn't reach over to her seatbelt because of the fire conditions. When we removed her it took several of us," Galipeau said at a press conference at the Salem, New Hampshire fire department.

Michael Galipeau
Salem, NH Firefighter Michael Galipeau (WBZ-TV)

Without hesitating his training kicked in as he assisted three other passersby who had already stopped. There was an unresponsive woman in one car, another unresponsive man in a pickup truck. A third driver was not seriously injured.

Neighbors to the crash captured cellphone video of the building flames that were putting all the rescuers at risk.

Stephen Collins was driving by and jumped into action himself, first helping the truck driver. "I found his name on his license and I was saying 'George, George everything is going to be okay, help is on the way,'" said Collins.

Windham NH crash
Three drivers were rescued from a fiery crash in Windham, NH (Courtesy Image)

As the flames raged rescuers pulled the woman through the driver's side window to safety. By now firefighter Galipeau was feeling the effects of smoke inhalation.

What no one did was hesitate. "You have to think differently," said Collins. "It could be your son, your grandmother, you don't know who is in there."

Galipeau is used to helping people but this was different. "My wife was slightly mad at me, but said she was proud of me," Galipeau said.

Galipeau says he usually takes a different route home but now believes divine intervention brought him passed the crash scene.

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