An off-duty Orangeburg Department of Public Safety officer helped rescue a 34-year-old while the man’s car was on fire.

Cpl. Seth Wolfe, 33, came upon the burning gray Dodge Charger at the Exxon gas station, 3995 North Road, at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 4 as he headed home after finishing his shift.

“I turned around,” Wolfe said, so he could get details of the car fire for city emergency dispatchers.

Wolfe said he was providing information to dispatchers when he saw a man exit the driver’s side of the burning car.

“He stumbled across the parking lot, I don’t know how many feet, but in my direction,” Wolfe said.

“He stumbled a little bit and then fell to the ground,” he added.

“I went over, checked him to see if he was still breathing, tried to get his attention, but he was unresponsive,” Wolfe said.

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DPS Officer Seth Wolfe

Orangeburg Department of Public Safety Cpl. Seth Wolfe helped save a man’s life after seeing the man’s car on fire in a gas station parking lot.

Wolfe said he started to try to figure out how to get him further away from the burning car.

Then he spotted another potential danger: a propane tank in front of it. There was no way to know then that the propane tank didn’t pose a threat because it wasn’t in use.

Wolfe said the quickest way to move the man was to drag him, but he didn’t want to have to do that.

It was at that moment that Sgt. Angelena Rickenbaker and Detective Bryan Haynes arrived at the scene and helped carry him away from the burning car.

Just as they began to carry him to a safer distance, the fuel tank released in the burning car, which caused it to erupt into a bigger fire.

Then two of his tires blew, Wolfe said.

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With Orangeburg County EMS on the way, Wolfe and the evening shift lieutenant tried to comfort the man.

“We tried to get him alert while fire units showed up and started handling the fire,” Wolfe said.

“He finally started coming to,” he said, “and responding to us first with just eye movements and then verbally asking for help.”

Wolfe said the man had visible burns to his head, neck and hands.

“I propped him up on my leg to at least give him a little comfort so he wasn’t laying on the cold ground,” Wolfe said.

“Throughout that whole period, he was asking for help and repeatedly screaming,” he added.

Wolfe and other officers helped load the man onto a stretcher once EMS arrived.

Other officers had already set up a landing zone for a helicopter.

Wolfe said EMS took the injured man to the landing zone, where he was airlifted to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga.

He noted that firefighters extinguished the car fire. No other occupants were discovered inside the vehicle.

“When the fire was out, what was most visible of the vehicle, so that you could tell what it was, was the trunk,” Wolfe said.

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Responding fire engineers included Bryan Beason, Billy Hickson and Riley Whitten.

Wolfe has been a law enforcement officer for nine years. He chose a law enforcement career because he has a family history of it.

“I just felt a calling to do it,” he said.

ODPS Chief Charles Austin Sr. said, “I’m especially proud of Corporal Wolfe. He is one of those persons who goes about his business in a highly professional, very efficient way.”

“I’ve seen him on several occasions work outside of his assigned responsibilities. Wherever he can be of help, whether it’s here or outside of the agency, if he can be of help, he’ll do so,” Austin said.

“I think what he did was heroic. I don’t believe he would call himself a hero. He’s a very humble young man,” Austin said.

Wolfe indeed denies being a hero.

“He self-extricated from the vehicle. I just didn’t want him to be near the burning car,” he said.

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Contact the writer: or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD

“When the fire was out, what was most visible of the vehicle, so that you could tell what it was, was the trunk.”

ODPS Cpl. Seth Wolfe


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