Employee praised for trying to help man who caught on fire at Md. gas station

Image 1 of 4

Fire officials in Prince George's County are praising the quick actions of a gas station employee who came to the aid of a man on fire.

At its tragic core, this is one of those "moments of truths" in life. When faced with an emergency situation like this, what would you do? Wait for someone to do something or spring into action yourself?

For the manager of a Shell gas station in Riverdale, the answer was obvious.

"I couldn't believe what we saw," said Miam Wasim.

He doesn't want you to call him a hero, but after trying to put out a man on fire with his own hands, well, that is probably what he is.

"His whole body was on fire," Wasim said. "It was horrible to see and I couldn't make any sense out of it."

At a gas pump at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, a man pumping gas caught on fire. Security cameras were not pointed at the spot, but another angle shows the man running covered in flames and smoke. Investigators say the pump was working properly.

Prince George's County Assistant Fire Chief Tom James said investigators cannot say what happened and it is still under investigation.

But what he can say is what Wasim and the others who responded were nothing short of heroic.

"Well, it's pretty impressive," said James. "A heroic act can occur at any minute."

The victim ran for help past the front of the office and then into the service bay at the gas station before dropping to the floor. You can still see the water marks where the crew tried to put the fire out.

Security video captured Wasim and others desperately trying put out the flames. He grabbed the first thing he saw, a jacket, which has the burn marks inside to prove it.

"I just wrapped it around his neck and tried to cover his face from the flames," he said. "The minute I did that, he just started breathing."

The victim was taken to a burn unit and later died. Wasim will tell you while wants to forget what he saw here, what he will hold on to is the memory people rushing in to help a man they did not know.

"Everybody is trying to help this guy to try to put the fire out," said Wasim. "It was just a horrible thing to witness."

Prince George's County fire officials say the identity of this victim still has not been released.

Technicians inspected all of the pumps on Tuesday and they passed inspection.

Originally, fire officials said this may have been the result of the man smoking at the pump, but now, investigators are looking for another cause.