A taxi driver has a Minneapolis man to thank for alerting him to a car fire as he slept inside his cab early Christmas Eve morning.

Smoke started seeping out from underneath the taxi parked on the dark, nearly empty street near Interstate 35 on Saturday when Omar Liban, 28, of Minneapolis, decided to get a closer look after his overnight delivery shift.

Parking nearby, Liban realized that what he had dismissed as smoke from a cigarette was more serious. He saw flames under the cab.

"Your car is on fire … get out!" he shouted, knocking on the window to wake the driver.

The middle-aged driver glared and swore, slowly gathering a book and other items from the cab, which was running but parked as the man slept, Liban said. It was just in time.

"A couple of minutes later, it was just engulfed in flames," he said.

The fire, which took place just before 7 a.m. on Saturday off 4th Avenue S. and E. 24th Street in Minneapolis, was quickly extinguished by Minneapolis firefighters.

While there have been a number of high-profile and deadly house fires this year, Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said a fair number of car fires occur throughout the year. Although car fires rarely result in fatalities, they can happen no matter what the season, he said.

On Saturday, the taxi company confirmed the driver wasn't injured. Liban said he's just glad he noticed the smoke before it was too late.

"It was pretty scary," he said. "I'm glad he was OK."