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'Can't watch this man burn alive' | Atlanta police officers recount miracle car fire rescue

Choking on the smoke and flames, these police officers risked their lives to save a man trapped in a burning car getting him out with only seconds to spare.

ATLANTA -- They risked their lives to save a trapped man from inside a burning car seconds before it would have killed him.

Now, we're hearing from the Atlanta police officers who risked their lives and ran into a car fire on Lenox Road at Georgia 400 early Sunday morning.

The car crashed head-on into a utility pole and caught fire with a passenger pinned inside. His legs were pinned under the dashboard and he couldn't escape. The fire burned quickly - so fast that it was outpacing attempts by officers to suppress it. They knew that time was running out and that the car could explode at any moment.

So they went straight for the man inside and did everything they could to rescue him. They were successful - and just in time. The fire engulfed the entire car just seconds later. Now comes the calm after the storm with the officers able to reflect with relief on those moments they were able to save the man's life.

"Everybody was screaming, it was a pretty chaotic scene," Officer Charles Tierney said. "Saw the flames and we knew we had to get him out."

Tierney has been on the force with Atlanta less than a year. Officer Brittany Williams has been on the force for about 2 years.

They, along with Officer Christopher Davis, ran to the car fire knowing a man was trapped in the front passenger seat. Two others had already gotten out, but that one man still remained inside.

"The only thing I could think of is, that I can't watch this man burn alive," Officer Williams said.

She jumped into the car while officer Tierney tried to force open the front passenger door with his baton.

"It was clear that we weren't going to be able to get the door open, so I got in from the back passenger and tried to pull him out over the seat," Williams said. "His legs were stuck. I got him halfway over the seat."

The heat inside was so intense she could barely breathe. She was counting on Officer Tierney to suppress the fire with his small department-issued extinguisher - all as she coached the trapped man, trying to give him encouragement and keep him from losing consciousness.

"Get your leg up, get your leg up," she could be heard saying in the body camera video.

"And literally, I told him that, whispered to him, I was, like, 'Your leg is starting to smoke, it's going to be on fire,' and he miraculously, like, did it - instantly," Williams recalled. "And from there he came around and we just pulled him out."

With seconds to spare, video from the scene records the frantic words: "Pull him out, pull him out, pull him out."

"As soon as we turn around, once we got him out, the car is completely engulfed," Officer Tierney said. "Especially where he was. So it was a matter of seconds."

They'd had maybe 4 minutes to save the man. And in those moments, their focus wasn't on their own lives - not at all.

"We're going to do whatever we have to do to get him out," Williams said as she thought back on that frantic rescue.

"Absolutely," Tierney said.

All three passengers were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital - all of them stable. The fire burned no one - not the passengers nor the officers.

"It definitely felt good to get a win," Officer Tierney said.

Atlanta police continue to investigate the accident itself to find out what led to the car crashing into the utility pole in the first place.

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