Seattle firefighter saves man's life and his own in fiery I-5 crash

Seattle firefighter Chris Quinlan is being hailed for helping rescue a man from a burning trunk after a multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 5 near Chehalis Tuesday morning, Feb. 6, 2018. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - Chris Quinlan, a Seattle firefighter, has been making the commute to Seattle from his home in Mossyrock for nearly a quarter of a century.

Early Tuesday morning, his hour-and-45 minute drive was interrupt by an accident that almost led to Quinlan’s own death, while he tried to save the life of another driver.

Traveling northbound on I-5 near Chehalis, Quinlan saw a pickup truck heading southbound crash into jersey barrier that separates the two directors.

“The pickup pushed the jersey barrier into the fast lane,” said Quinlan.

He got out of his Volkswagen sedan only to witness another accident and then a third.

“I kept calling dispatch and they were asking why I kept calling asking for medic units,” said Quinlan.

Just as he was about to jump the jersey barrier to assist the driver in the pickup, he hesitated to ‘size up’ the situation as he was trained to do.

It was then a semi-truck hit the pickup, right in front of him, causing the pickup to burst into flames.

Quinlan ran to assist the driver.

“I got the door open, saw the patient looking up at me and he was on the floorboards of the pickup truck,” said Quinlan.

He got the driver out as the truck became engulfed in flames.

“If he would have been in the car another minute, he wouldn't have made it,” said Quinlan, a veteran firefighter of 27 years.

But, it was his multi-tasking and that trained hesitation to assess his surroundings that he believes is why he is still alive today.

“It’s hard to hold back when you know there is a patient in a car and you need to get to him," said Quinlan. "But if I had jumped the jersey barrier, I don’t think I would be standing here."

The driver of the pickup is said to be still recovering from his injuries. Quinlan hopes to see him again.

The firefighter who drives an engine for Station 33 in Seattle’s Rainier Valley is being saluted by his colleagues, who agree their training to ‘size up’ the situation before rushing in saved his life and that of the person he was saving.

“It did save his life,” said Captain Keith Anderson. “Had he jumped that jersey barrier any earlier, he probably would not be with us any longer.”

Quinlan is now back on the job to save other lives.

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