David Bowers, 62, said he grabbed a fire extinguisher when a customer entered a Meijer store in Gaylord store last month pleading for help. Meijer, a Midwest chain, won't specifically comment on the matter but said it has policies for dealing with an emergency.
"The one supervisor told me that my heart was in the right place but my brain wasn't," Bowers told TV station WPBN-WTOM.
His wife, Lynn Bowers, said the couple decided to go public after receiving a cheery Christmas card from Meijer just a few days ago.
"I was furious. We couldn't believe it," she told The Associated Press on Friday, referring to the card. "It was the perfect job for him. He loves to talk."
Ken Kuzon needed to put out a fire in the glove box of his van on Nov. 14. Bowers said he left the store and handed a fire extinguisher to Kuzon. The flames were out in seconds.
Bowers, who was paid $9.30 an hour, returned to his post greeting shoppers.
"My truck would've been completely burned. ... I just think it's ridiculous. Why should you be penalized for being a good Samaritan?" Kuzon said.
Grand Rapids-based Meijer released a statement suggesting Bowers should not have dashed to the van.
"We have well-established safety procedures for emergency situations, and we train all team members on those procedures," Meijer said. "These procedures help ensure the safety of everyone, both customers and team members, and our team members know there are consequences when they don't follow them."
Bowers had worked at Meijer for about 4½ years. He and his wife delivered mail for years in the Detroit area before retiring from the U.S. Postal Service and moving to northern Michigan.
"He's very bummed out," Lynn Bowers said. "It's a split-second decision you make. He was never told there was a procedure for a car fire."
Bowers once got in hot water for chasing a shoplifter but otherwise had a good record at Meijer.
"If they offered me the job back, I would go back," he told AP. "I know Meijer signs the paychecks, but my thought was I always worked for the people coming in and out those doors. It was similar to being a mailman. I took care of those customers."
In October, a Wal-Mart employee in Michigan's Livingston County was fired after he tried to stop an assault in the parking lot while he was outside on a break. The retailer later invited him to return to work.