BUTLER, New Jersey (WABC) -- 53-year-old John Ryan knows how fortunate he is to be alive. On Saturday night, he went to his garage to double-check he had turned everything off. He says that's when he noticed a small fire on the floor.
"I went to get a garden hose to extinguish it," Ryan said.
There was only one problem - the water was off for the winter, so he ran back into the garage.
"I wanted to see if maybe I could just stomp it out. As soon as I opened the door, there was enough air - it flashed over," Ryan adds.
The fire knocked him out. His wife, a former firefighter, tried to help but was unable to drag him to safety, so she called 911.
The first to respond to the scene was a Butler police officer. He was unable to pull Ryan to safety, but when the second officer arrived, who is also a volunteer firefighter, together they saved the unconscious homeowner.
"I certainly thing the fire department training has helped me throughout my career, in responding to any fire alarm calls," said Sgt. Colleen Pascale.
For 26 years, Ryan has been a former volunteer firefighter in Butler - in fact, he was the fire chief. He spent a lifetime racing to emergency calls like this, and telling people to never run into a burning building.
"I thought I could. I thought I had time. There was no time - literally seconds it took off," he said.
Ryan broke his own cardinal rule, and almost paid with his life. Now, amidst the burnt wreckage - his bike, his old fire helmet, he is giving thanks that he was pulled out just in time.
Former firefighter rescued from burning garage in Butler
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