When Joe Chambers saw sparks flying from the bottom of the police car that crashed Saturday near his sister's home in Grays Ferry, the 17-year-old volunteer firefighter knew the cop trapped inside only had seconds to escape.
So the teen from Ridley Park - now being hailed a hero along with another man, Dante Johnson, 24, for saving the officer's life - sprung into action: He sprinted down the block toward the burning squad car, at 28th and Tasker streets.
"I started running full speed down the street and as I got to the car, the bottom of the car caught fire and then the hood caught fire . . . the door was jammed shut, I couldn't get it open," Chambers, a senior at Ridley High, recounted Sunday.
"I looked over at the people watching and I said, 'Somebody's gonna have to come help me,' and came over and I said, 'We're gonna have to get him through the window.'"
The pair reached through the squad car's window and pulled out Officer Mark Kimsey, 30, who has been on the job since last year. They quickly moved the cop, who was in and out of consciousness, away from the car and onto the sidewalk.
"Right when we got him to the sidewalk, the engine compartment blew," said Chambers, a volunteer firefighter with Leedom Fire Company in Delco for almost four years. "Within 30 seconds, the whole car was gone."
Police said the close call began just before 5:30 p.m. Saturday when Kimsey, lights and sirens activated, was driving west on Tasker Street from 27th. At the intersection of 28th and Tasker, a man driving a Toyota Tacoma made a left and collided with Kimsey's squad car. Both Kimsey and a 52-year-old man in the Tacoma became trapped in their vehicles, police said.
Cops said initial reports Sunday that the driver of the Tacoma fled the scene were inaccurate.
After they pulled Kimsey from his car, Chambers and Johnson helped the Tacoma's driver escape his truck, too. By the time firefighters arrived, Chambers said, Kimsey's patrol car was fully engulfed in flames.
Both Kimsey, who suffered burns and a head injury, and the other driver were treated at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for non-life-threatening injuries. Police said both were in stable condition.
For Chambers, who hopes to join the military after high school and eventually work as a policeman or firefighter, saving the cop hit close to home: His uncle, Eric Johnson, is a veteran Philadelphia Police detective.
Chambers visited Kimsey in his hospital room later Saturday night.
"It felt great just to see that he was OK," the teen said.
"He said, 'I can't thank you enough.' I was like, 'You don't have to, it's fine.' I would do it any day of the week if I had to."