A mechanical defect caused a fire that damaged a 2000 Ford Explorer shortly before noon Feb. 18 while the driver, Laurie Hutchinson, was headed south on Main Street near the intersection with James Street.

Hutchinson and a passenger escaped injury.

Sgt. Don Finnegan of the Rockland Police Department said the department suspects a gas or oil leak caused the fire.

The vehicle was recently purchased by Hutchinson, who, according to police, said she had made an appointment to have a possible gas and oil leak repaired by a mechanic.

The Rockland Fire Department responded to the scene and extinguished the blaze, said Finnegan.

Charles Wilton of Rockland was recognized Feb. 24 by the Rockland Police Department for his quick thinking in alerting a driver of a vehicle emitting flames, and then helping the occupants to escape the Sport Utility Vehicle.

Wilton received the department's challenge coin for his actions when he was walking on Main Street near US Cellular and saw the Explorer emitting flames and trailing fire along the pavement as it drove by.

The challenge coin is given for acknowledging citizens and employees alike who commit an act of extraordinary kindness, or unselfishly give of themselves to help others.

Wilton recognized the danger and immediately ran after the vehicle to get the driver's attention to stop the SUV and get the two women safely out of the vehicle. His action was critical in expediting the occupant’s ability to exit the vehicle before it burst into flames, said a press release form the department.

Wilton’s quick response resulted in the safe resolution of a nearly tragic situation and was done with self-assurance and displayed poise under a stressful situation, said Chief Bruce Boucher.

“Today, more than ever before, our community’s first line of defense needs our citizen’s willingness to become involve. A safe community is not a spectator sport. Everyone needs to get involved. The city of Rockland is grateful that you were willing to get involved," said Boucher.

Officers Joel Neal and Scott Solórzano recommended Wilton for the award.