Roseville Fire Department honors life-saving good samaritan

Roseville Fire Chief Tim O’Neill honored Woodbury resident Robert Renning with a life-saving award after his heroic rescue of a man trapped inside a burning vehicle in June. (Johanna Holub/Review)

The SUV driven by Mike Johannes caught fire while he was driving on Interstate 35W in June. He was trapped inside, holding his breath, for about a minute before Robert Renning pried the passenger-side door in half with his bare hands. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota State Patrol)

Mike Johannes, Roseville Fire Chief Tim O’Neill and Robert Renning shared a laugh after Johannes made a joke at an award ceremony July 23. (Johanna Holub/Review)

Robert Renning bent door in half to rescue motorist from burning SUV

Last month, a Woodbury man rescued a motorist from a burning vehicle in a heroic act of bravery.

In the three short weeks since the incident, Robert Renning, 52, has been hit with a flurry of media attention from across the country calling him a “real-life Superman.”

“Some of those [reports] got the story right, and some didn’t,” he said humbly.

Now, he’s being honored with an award from the Roseville Fire Department for his quick actions that likely saved Minneapolis resident Michael Johannes’ life.

Renning was driving southbound on Interstate 35W the evening of June 29 when he noticed a sports utility vehicle driving next to him had caught fire. He was able to flag down the driver, Johannes, who pulled over onto the shoulder.

Within seconds, flames were rapidly consuming Johannes’ SUV, and smoke had begun to fill the cab of the vehicle. Johannes was trying to escape, but the power windows and locks failed and he was trapped inside. He tried to break the passenger-side window by kicking it, but to no avail.

Renning then ran to the car, wedged his fingers in the crack at the top of the passenger-side door and inexplicably bent the door in half with his bare hands.

The glass window shattered, and Renning was able to pull Johannes, who had been trapped in the car for about 45 seconds, to safety. The two men watched as the car was engulfed in flames within moments.

The Roseville Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services arrived shortly thereafter and treated Johannes for a cut and smoke inhalation.

Roseville Fire Chief Tim O’Neill presented Renning with an award of recognition at a ceremony held July 23 at the new fire station on Lexington Avenue.

“Had the actions of Robert not taken place, it would have had a different outcome by the time we arrived in four minutes,” O’Neill said. “We all kind of hope that as we travel through life, there’s Roberts in the world out there just in case we need a little extra help one day.”

Renning, a member of the Minnesota Air National Guard and a mechanical engineer by trade, remains humble about the ordeal, and passed recognition on to his girlfriend who was in the car with him at the time of the incident.

“She was the one who had the wherewithal to stay calm, call 911 and get [the fire department] out there as soon as possible,” he said.

In return, Renning gave O’Neill and the rest of the fire department a military challenge coin for their aid.

Johannes was teary-eyed at the ceremony, calling Renning a “great guy” and explaining that the two have been getting to know each other over the past few weeks.

“I can’t thank him any more [than I have already],” he said.

But O’Neill wasn’t done - he named both Johannes and Renning honorary Roseville firefighters and presented them with T-shirts.

“Do you have this in double XL?” Johannes joked, prompting laughter from Renning and the many family members who had gathered for the event.

To view a clip of the awards ceremony, visit or view below.

Johanna Holub can be reached at or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.

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