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Melville volunteer given the state 'Firefighter of the Year' award

Melville firefighters extinguish a car fire in an

Melville firefighters extinguish a car fire in an embankment on the Northern State Parkway on March 12, 2018. Third Assistant Chief Jason Bernfeld, of Melville, pulled the driver to safety moments before the overturned car went up in flames. Credit: Steve Silverman

A Melville firefighter was named “Firefighter of the Year” Sunday for a rescue on the Northern State Parkway last year in which he pulled a motorist from an overturned car moments before it went up in flames.

The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York granted the award to Jason Bernfeld, a 16-year member of the Melville Volunteer Fire Department, where he serves as third assistant chief, according to an association news release. Bernfeld received the award in a ceremony in Syracuse.

“Assistant Chief Bernfeld acted heroically and selflessly to rescue this individual,” association president Steve Klein said in a statement. “His intervention and quick action saved this person’s life, and we are proud to name him as the 2019 Firefighter of the Year.”

Bernfeld, 34, was driving to his job in the NYPD’s mounted unit in March 2018 when he spotted the flipped Ford Crown Victoria in an embankment on the parkway near Round Swamp Road, according to a news release and a Newsday report at that time.

Bernfeld pulled over and found flames rising from the dashboard, dripping molten plastic onto the driver stuck inside. Bernfeld quickly cut through the driver’s seat belt and yanked him from the crash, which then caught fire.

“His quick action serves as an inspiration for all of us in the Melville Fire Department, and we are proud that he is one of ours,” Melville Fire Chief Chris Nolan said in a statement.

About two dozen Melville firefighters then put out the blaze. The driver was taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where he was treated for cuts, burns and neck and back pain.

Bernfeld in a statement called his award “an honor.”

“I am thankful that I was in the right place at the right time, and that my training as a firefighter helped me to be prepared for this rescue.”

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