Comox man who pulled woman from burning car praised for heroic actions

Comox man who pulled woman from burning car praised for heroic actions
A Comox gas station was in ruins after it burst into flames Saturday, May 20, 2023.

A Comox man is being praised for his heroic efforts following an incident that saw him pull a woman from a burning car as the gas station he co-owned erupted in flames.

Junyi Liu has been awarded a Carnegie Medal for Heroism, which is given to individuals who risk themselves “to an extraordinary degree” to save or attempt to save the lives of others, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission announced Monday.

It says Liu was working the station’s counter on May 20, 2023, when a fire completely destroyed the Esso at 648 Anderton Rd. A 76-year-old driver had struck a gas pump, shearing it off. 

“I saw it first,” Liu told CHEK News last May.

He said he pushed all the emergency shut-off buttons inside the station before rushing outside, where flames quickly spread after propane got onto the vehicle.

“At that moment, there were only two things on my mind. First one was to save her, another one is to try my best to put down the fire,” said Liu.

A nearby resident captured video of Liu grabbing a fire extinguisher and opening the car’s passenger door. Then, he ran to the driver’s door and pulled the woman, the only one in the car, to safety. Another man was also seen rushing to the woman’s aid.

Soon after, the entire carport was up in flames.

“The woman was in shock and had suffered minor burns to her face but recovered. Liu suffered minor burns to his hand and arm but did not seek treatment,” the Carnegie Commission said in a news release.

While Liu said he “was scared, for sure,” he added in an interview a few days later that he “wasn’t really thinking about it” and just “did what I could do at the moment.”


The fire was instantaneous, and a large plume of smoke could be seen throughout the Comox Valley, including as far as Royston. Local residents had to flee their homes as crews from the Comox, Courtenay and Cumberland fire departments battled the flames.

Firefighters took about an hour to put out the blaze. No nearby buildings were damaged, though the Garlic & Pepper eatery, which was attached to the gas station, was also destroyed.

Liu said his business was insured. Last May, he added that he felt bad for his employees, who were now unemployed. A local launched a GoFundMe for the owners and workers.

America’s highest civilian honour

The Carnegie Commission says the medal, established in 1904, is “considered North America’s highest civilian honour for heroism.” Seventeen people, including Liu, are being recognized, and recipients or their survivors will receive a financial grant.

The bronze medallion will be presented to Liu in a few months.

Last July, the Town of Comox presented Liu with a Citizen Service Award. Council recognized his quick response to the fire and said his actions “contributed to saving a life.”

A CHEK News reporter was on scene at the time of the fire and captured video:

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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