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Woodbury Good Samaritan honored by firefighters (W/VIDEO)

Woodbury resident Robert Renning (left) was honored last week by the Roseville Fire Department. He was joined at the ceremony by Roseville Fire Chief Tim O’Neil (right) and Michael Johannes, who Renning freed last month from a burning vehicle. (Staff photos by Mike Longaecker)2 / 3
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This summer has become a season of firsts for Robert Renning.

First, he drew national headlines after he freed a man trapped inside a burning car using his bare hands to wrench on a door frame until it burst open a window.

On Wednesday, the Woodbury man continued to break new ground when he became the first civilian ever presented with the Roseville Fire Department’s Life Saving Award.

“It’s a special day for us,” Roseville Fire Chief Tim O’Neill said during a ceremony for Renning, which was also attended by Michael Johannes, the man freed from the burning SUV.

Johannes said it was only a matter of seconds before he was freed from the smoke-filled vehicle and dragged to an Interstate 35W ditch by Renning that the SUV erupted into flames.

Renning, who had witnessed the SUV on fire and had pulled off to the shoulder of the road, rushed to the burning vehicle. Using his hands, he pried back the door frame until it caused the SUV’s window to break, allowing Renning to pull Johannes out.

Roseville firefighters responded to the call – placed by Renning’s girlfriend Asea Cole – and arrived to find it fully engulfed.

“We were both in an action mode,” Cole said at the Roseville ceremony. “I trusted he could save the day.”

The act of bravery set an example to follow, O’Neill told a crowd of about 25 friends and family connected to Renning and Johannes.

“We hope there are the Roberts of the world in case we need a little help along the way,” O’Neill said.

The incident drew attention from national news outlets that neither Renning nor Johannes said they sought, expected or were especially comfortable with.

Renning, wearing his Minneota Air National Guard uniform, said it’s one thing to be recognized in the media, but it’s much more meaningful “when the professionals want to pat you on the back.”

He made sure the honor was a two-way street; after receiving his award, Renning presented O’Neill with a military “Challenge Coin” that he said is meant to acknowledge a good deed.

“It’s a way for us to say thanks,” Renning said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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