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When Rusty Allee pulled an unconscious man from a burning car in April 2012, he didn't think much of it at the time.

"I'd like to think that's what anybody would have done in my situation," he said.

But state law enforcement officials and a judge in Billings certainly thought plenty of his actions. Wednesday morning, they awarded Allee the Montana Department of Justice Montana Highway Patrol Meritorious Service Award.

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Brian Sampson said that about a minute after Allee pulled the man, 34-year-old Zachary Leeroy Brown, from the car, it became engulfed in flames.

"If he hadn't pulled him out, he would've died," Sampson said.

Sampson presented the award to Allee at a Wednesday meeting of the Yellowstone County Impaired Driving Court program, which works to rehabilitate people convicted of drunken driving, in District Judge Mary Jane Knisely's chambers at the county courthouse.

Allee graduated from that program about four months ago and has been sober for two years. Sampson and Knisely felt it was a fitting place to honor and congratulate him.

"You're now saving other people's lives," Kinsely said.

Allee was driving on River Road on April 21, 2012, when he spotted a fire off the road in front of him.

He saw it was a car and called 911 as he ran toward it. Allee found Brown inside the car and pulled him through a window and about 30 feet to safety.

By the time he turned around, the flames had spread the length of the car.

Brown was charged with DUI, his fourth, from the crash and in September faced a new drunken-driving accusation.

Several of Allee's family members joined him at Wednesday's quick award ceremony. He said it was nice for them to be there with him to share the honor.

"For sure, it's going on the wall," he said of the award. "It's a neat deal to be recognized for this."

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