A sick man in a parking lot. A woman and baby stuck in an elevator. Firefighters battling a blaze from downed power lines.
But sometimes the real battle is just getting to the emergency.
“It’s getting worse with more congestion,” Montgomery County Battalion Chief Jim Resnick said. “It's always getting worse."
Jamming on brakes. Going around fire trucks.
“We see every possible reaction," Resnick said.
Heading to a house filling with smoke, we hit one of the biggest obstacles: Intersections.
We wait as not one, two, three but 10 cars fly by us despite lights and sirens blaring.
Riding with Station 30 in Landover Hills, a traffic jam at a light. Drivers freeze, not sure what to do. One car pulls into the intersection. Another backs up, then pulls ahead and continues to block the lanes.
Lt. John Wiseman from Landover Hills estimates, "One mile travel time on a call that we would encounter at least seven or eight drivers doing the wrong thing."
He and other firefighters say you should never continue into the intersection because you might get hit.
"We have to keep about a three car distance,” Wiseman explained. “Even when we do that people try to duck right in front of us."
A black car slams on the brakes in front of the fire truck, but then tries to outrun it.
On Station 26's truck in District Heights, most cars got out of the way, until the turn where a silver SUV suddenly pulled out.
“People see us coming down the road and just decide, I’m pulling out anyway,” Lt. Doug Sudik said.
Maryland law says drivers must pull over and stop. You can be slapped with a $110 fine and one point on your license. In DC you can get a $150 ticket. In Virginia you can end up with four points on your license and face reckless driving charges if you try to pass a responding emergency vehicle.
And it's against the law to try and catch a free ride.
A car actually got in between two fire trucks in Gaithersburg, as Station 8 responded to a school alarm.
"You're supposed to stay back 500 feet."
An infant was trapped inside an SUV, but the way was blocked by cars spread out in all directions on a 100-degree day.
It doesn't have to be this hard.
Have a plan.
So you're not the one keeping firefighters from where they really need to be.