"We knew that we had to get those kids out."
Without gloves in single-digit temperatures, the two officers made the split-second decision to try to pull the two 16-year-old boys from the burning car, which was on its roof.
Another teenage boy had already escaped the vehicle and kicked out a window, but the driver and another boy were unconscious in the back seat area.
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"I knew the car had the potential to become engulfed but at the time that's not what we were thinking," Schlei said, describing how he and Reid were able to pull the boys out in less than 60 seconds.
"It feels like a lot longer when you're doing it though."
The three teens were taken to a hospital for treatment. The driver will be cited for failure to yield and reckless driving, police said.
Schlei and Reid, who graduated from the Milwaukee police training academy about 2½ years ago and have been partners at District 4 for about two years, were back on duty Thursday night.
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The two will be nominated for a Milwaukee Police Department Merit Award.
"To help save someone, there's no better feeling," Reid said.
"I think that officers just like us, and at every Milwaukee police district station, even across the country, they would do the same thing," he said.
"Because that's why we joined and that's why we're cops."