CHICAGO (CBS) — The scene on the Stevenson Expressway last week was like a movie, but van going up in flames was real and dangerous.

Now, Chicago Police Officer Claudio Salgado is being called a hero for pulling a man from the burning vehicle, seconds before it exploded.

The van was parked near the Stevenson northbound ramp to the Dan Ryan Expressway Tuesday, and it was on fire. The van’s owner, a welder in his 60s, was trying to save his tools because they weren’t covered by insurance.

Salgado was in full uniform on his way to work for the afternoon watch when he saw the burning van.

There were compressed oxygen tanks in the van, so Salgado had to act quickly.

“I was screaming at him that we have to leave the area – we have to leave before the vehicle exploded,” Salgado said.

The welder, Peter O’Hagan, expressed gratitude at a news conference over the weekend.

“If it weren’t for him, I don’t know where I’d be today,” O’Hagan said.

But Salgado said he was only acting out his responsibility as a police officer.

“It’s just my duty,” he said. “We serve and protect the community, and we do this because it’s part of the job – and that’s why I’m very proud to be a Chicago Police officer.”

Salgado, a native of Chile, has been on the force for four years.

When he’s not saving lives, Salgado is working on a doctorate in clinical psychology.

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