COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Around Orangeburg County, K9 Deputy CJ Quinlan's neck is a medal with a story.
That story happened in Orangeburg on Sulton Court last October. Early one morning, Quinlan was looking for a car involved in a hit-and-run. He didn't find it. Instead, he saved a life.
"As I came through the neighborhood, my dog started acting a little funny in the back. I could tell something wasn't right in the neighborhood," the deputy said. "As I pulled back around the blind corner and started to exit the trailer park, I saw what looked like a TV set glowing real heavy in the window, and it caught my eye, so I stopped and backed up. The longer I sat there and looked at it, I'm like, 'That's not the TV. That's flames.'"
Charles Williams, 70, was asleep inside his home.
"I laid down to sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep, and I didn't ever wake up. I just slept," Williams said.
He wasn't aware that his home was on fire.
"I heard someone knock on the door, but I didn't know what it was. I didn't pay it no attention. Then, all of a sudden, it keep knocking and keep knocking and keep knocking and keep knocking," he said. "When I got up and went to the door, the house was full of smoke."
Deputy Quinlan was responsible for the knocking.
"I'm trying to kick the door in. Nothing's happening. Nothing's happening. By the third time I go to kick the door in, like I said before, it was like God just decided, 'Hey, you know what? We're going to open this door up, and we're going to let you in,'" Quinlan said.
When the door opened, Williams saw the Orangeburg County deputy.
"CJ was at the door, and he said, 'Come to me!' And I went to him, but I had to walk through the fire to get to him," Williams said.
"Most amazing sight I've ever seen in my life since I've been in law enforcement, was seeing this guy literally walking through the flames," added Quinlan.
Quinlan had saved Williams' life. Even as the 70-year-old watched his home and possessions melt, he was grateful, as he shared a hug and some tears with his hero.
"God sent him there to get me out of there because I wouldn't have even woken up," Williams said.
Even though he now wears a Medal of Valor after a ceremony Thursday night hosted by the South Carolina Sheriff's Association, Quinlan says the word 'hero' isn't in his vocabulary.
Williams strongly disagrees. Quinlan was one of four deputies awarded the Medal of Valor this year.
"He deserves it, and you tell him I want to see him, you know, because he saved my life. He did a blessing to me," Williams said.