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9 astounding off-duty saves

From pulling people out of burning buildings, to rendering aid in a catastrophic traffic pileup while injured, these heroic stories of off-duty responders will stun you


Photo/Huntington Community First Aid Squad

In EMS, off-duty simply means you’re not getting paid, as a first responder is always ready to respond to a distress call, regardless of if they’re on the clock or not.

We’ve compiled a list of astounding off-duty saves by paramedics and EMTs.

Know someone whose rescue story should be added to this list? Send us an email to and let us know their story.

1. Off-duty Ore. FF-paramedic rescues woman from burning house

Bend Firefighter-Paramedic Jared Hopper was driving to a job site for his construction business when he saw smoke coming from a house and stopped, according to the Bend Bulletin. When he approached the scene, a neighbor told him there was a disabled woman inside the house who couldn’t get out.

Hopper ran into the house, which was filling with smoke, and located the woman, who had a broken foot and needed a wheelchair. He lifted the woman out of her bed and put her into the wheelchair, taking her out of the house and across the street to safety.

2. Off-duty Ga. EMT rescues several people from burning truck

Floyd Medical Center EMT Desiree Hartmann was driving home with her children on March 7 when her car was nearly struck by a wrong-way driver, according to hospital. After avoiding a collision, Hartmann called 911 and then turned around and followed the vehicle, concerned about the safety of other motorists.

While still on the phone with dispatchers, Hartmann witnessed the vehicle collide head-on with a pickup truck at full speed, causing the pickup to burst into flames.

Hartmann pulled over to where her children would be safe and then ran back to the vehicles to check on the occupants. The driver of the car that was going the wrong way was unresponsive but breathing and had a strong pulse. Hartmann then went to the burning pickup and found four victims inside.

Hartmann and another good Samaritan escorted the pickup driver away from the flames then helped another occupant out before lifting a third occupant out of the truck and carrying her to safety. A nurse assistant who also came upon the scene helped care for the rescued patients.

Police officers arrived and Hartmann told them there was one more person in the burning vehicle. Floyd County Police Officer Blake Puckett used a pocket knife to cut the final trapped passenger out of her seatbelt then worked with another good Samaritan to get her away from the truck as flames started to reach the truck’s cab.

3. Off-duty first responder couple revive man having medical emergency at Okla. airport

Moore Fire Department Lt. Alex Meron and Paramedic Chelsee Meron had just come back from a trip to Colorado when they noticed a man in the baggage claim area of Will Rogers World Airport, according to News9. At first, the man appeared to be sleeping, but the couple checked his pulse and weren’t able to find one.

Alex Meron began CPR while Chelsee Meron located the nearest AED. The man regained a pulse before EMSA arrived to transport him to the hospital. The man’s current condition was not reported but EMSA officials said he suffered a medical episode and was still breathing when he was brought to the hospital.

“We emphasize a lot about situational awareness, being very cognizant about your surroundings. Sizing up the situation and then we apply it throughout an entire career,” Moore Fire Department Deputy Chief Ryan Marlar told News9. “I believe that was what happened with Lieutenant Meron at the airport, he looked over at somebody that just didn’t seem normal.”

4. Off-duty medic who aided others in 133-vehicle pileup shares story on Toyota podcast

MedStar Mobile Healthcare Paramedic Trey McDaniel’s Toyota FJ Cruiser was struck by a semi-truck at full speed during the massive crash that left six dead and dozens more injured. Despite suffering injuries himself, McDaniel stayed at the scene to help others.

In an episode of the newly-relaunched Toyota Untold podcast, McDaniel describes what he experienced when his vehicle was struck from behind, causing it to flip over a barrier. He explains how he then began walking around to other cars to check on people, and later worked alongside responding crews to aid patients.

“My supervisor sees me, he’s like, ‘What are you doing?’” McDaniel recounted. "... I’m doing my job.”

5. Off-duty FDNY EMT, good Samaritans pull driver from burning car

A 34-year-old man was pulled from a burning car by an EMT and two Good Samaritans after crashing on the Long Island Expressway, authorities said.

The unidentified driver was heading west when he lost control near Exit 43 in Woodbury and crashed his 2012 Audi just before 3 p.m., Nassau County police said Wednesday. The car smashed into a cement barrier before hitting the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway overpass.

Dale Bartolomeo, an FDNY EMT who also volunteers with the Huntington Manor Fire Department, saw the crash and raced in to help, officials said. He was quickly joined by two other people.

They pulled the unconscious driver from the burning vehicle, then emergency responders arrived and treated the victim, authorities said. He was then flown by police helicopter to the hospital, where he remains in critical condition.

6. Off-duty Conn. EMS lieutenant pulls 11 people from rolled-over van

Mark Battista, an EMS lieutenant at Chesterfield Fire Co., was driving through inclement weather Sunday near Stroudsburg, Pa., more than 200 miles from Montville, when he came across an anomaly.

“There was a pretty large snow squall, and it was getting to whiteout conditions, and I’m driving carefully, looking around, and all of a sudden I saw this van over on its side and this father is looking at me frantic, waving his arms,” Battista said.

Battista ran over to the man and found a Ford transit van on its side on a small embankment. With the help of Leonard Friedman, the man who asked Battista for assistance, he extricated 11 people from the van, including Friedman’s wife and children, two of whom were infants.

“He was extremely helpful,” Friedman said. “He turned around to make sure we were OK, to make sure EMS came, to make sure everything was good, it was remarkable. The punchline is, I wanted to give him a tip for helping me, and he wouldn’t take it. I think that’s amazing. It shows he’s a good guy. He wasn’t doing it for money, he was doing it to be a good person.”

7. Off-duty FF-medics save drowning 3-year-old

Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department Lt. Kandice Oltz was with her wife, Oakland Park Firefighter-Paramedic Jennifer Oltz, on Dania Beach’s Whiskey Creek on April 25, when they heard a father frantically pulling his lifeless toddler from the water, Coral Springs Talk reported.

“The three-year-old was still wearing his floaties,” an account of the rescue by Coral Springs city officials read. “Kandice was with her wife Jen, who communicated to the family in Spanish, letting them know she and Kandice were first responders.”

Following CPR, the boy began to breathe and gag, prompting Kandice to turn him on his side, allowing him to purge the water from his body, before scooping him up and running to meet Hollywood Fire Rescue paramedics in the parking lot.

8. Off-duty Texas EMT injured in fatal 133-vehicle pileup recounts aiding other victims

Jesse Robinson was on his way to JPS Hospital Thursday morning to begin his shift when he lost control of his car on an icy and slick I-35W in Fort Worth.

He was part of a 133-car pileup that claimed the lives of six people and injured another 65.

“I saw the size of the accident and it just kept going. This wasn’t eight or so cars. This was a big deal,” he said.

Robinson said he helped two or three people from their cars until firefighters and police arrived. Then he helped another 15 people get things from their cars and escort them to the side of the road.

He even carried off a dog.

9. Off-duty Calif. first responders rescue child at hotel pool

First responders working the Dixie Fire were off duty at their hotel when a scream pulled them back into professional mode.

A group of first responders reported hearing a woman scream after discovering her son, 10, was partially in the pool, unresponsive, CBS 13 reported.

“We jumped the fence, we don’t have time to use key cards,” Oakland Fire Department’s Jarred Neal told the news station.

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This article was originally posted Dec. 20, 2021. It has been updated.

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.