A volunteer firefighter and two other men were praised for their quick thinking in helping to pull a family of four — including a 12-year-old boy - from a burning car Friday night.

Dan Regnier, 35, was driving home after working in Ottawa on Friday night at about 9:30 p.m. when he saw a car was on fire on Highway 417 near the Nicholas Street off ramp.

Two cars had collided on the highway, with one hitting a wall and catching fire.

Regnier pulled over and ran across the 417 to the car, where he saw four people inside, none moving. 

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Dan Regnier acted quickly to save a family of four from a burning car Friday night. (Courtesy Dan Regnier)

He and two other men who had pulled over from a nearby van worked to pry open the driver-side door and pull out the father and his daughters from the car. A second child was pulled out of the driver-side back door, but the last child, a 12-year-old boy, remained trapped. That's when Regnier noticed the fire was spreading to inside the car.

"I tried smashing the window with my keys but it didn't work so I put my foot through the window and landed on the passenger driver side," said Regnier. He released the front seat, allowing the two men to free the boy, whose feet had become stuck underneath the front seat.

Regnier said the whole rescue took two or three minutes, but said that it felt like forever.

Moments later, fire engulfed the vehicle.

"It was a matter of seconds," he said.

Regnier said the experience was "the highlight of anything I've done" as a volunteer firefighter.

All the people in the car were out by the time police officers, on-duty firefighters and paramedics arrived at the scene.

The man driving the car was assessed by paramedics for minor burns to his hand, but refused to go to the hospital. The 12-year-old boy was uninjured, paramedics said.