KENOSHA, Wisconsin (WISN) — Kenosha police helped an elderly man get out of his van just in time as it burst into flames.

Donald Schmelling told WISN 12 News he was driving on Sheridan Road in Kenosha around 9 p.m. Tuesday, when he heard his tire pop.

“I was looking for a place to stop and all of the sudden the sparks came, because when the tire went flat, the rims hit the road, that’s where the sparks came from,” Schmelling said.

The sparks created a streak of fire along Sheridan Road, like a stunt scene in Hollywood.

A Kenosha police officer, luckily right behind with his dash camera recording.

Drivers reported the man’s van for reckless driving, and an officer nearby was there just in time.

The van then burst into flames. By the time Schmelling pulled over in front of St. Mark Catholic Church at 73rd Street and 12th Avenue, officers ran to the burning van to help him to safety.

“By the time the officers are there and you’re getting out of the van, what are you thinking at that point?” WISN 12 News’ Hillary Mintz asked.

“Probably wasn’t, I was just thinking about getting out. After I got out and it was burning, they put me in the squad car, my jacket was burned,” Schmelling said.

Schmelling escaped with minor burns, one of the officer’s hairs on his hand was singed. Police say it was an extremely close call.

“The officers dragged him away and likely saved his life. They were really, really lucky that it didn’t combust into an explosion because that happens oftentimes,” Kenosha Lt. Joseph Nosalik told WISN 12 News Wednesday.

“You thankful for those officers?” Mintz asked.

“I am, and the fire department, they’re all good here and they brought me home, so that was also good,” Schmelling said.

“Public service is what Kenosha Police Department is about. And law enforcement is honest. And that’s why we’re there for him. So we’re trained to run towards danger in the interest of public safety and saving lives,” Nosalik said.

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