Harnett County Emergency Services officials are crediting the lessons taught to preschoolers about Fire Prevention Week — and the actions of a 5-year-old girl — for preventing more damage to an …
Harnett County Emergency Services officials are crediting the lessons taught to preschoolers about Fire Prevention Week — and the actions of a 5-year-old girl — for preventing more damage to an Angier home on Tuesday.
The quick-thinking and alert little girl used what she learned in a preschool class to save her family when she discovered her grandmother’s washer and dryer on fire, according to Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Banks Wallace.
Five-year-old Taylor, the granddaughter of Leafy West and her husband Clarence, saw smoke coming from the laundry room of the Wimberly Street home and immediately told her grandmother.
“The homeowner had been doing laundry. It was in an outside carport laundry room,” Wallace said. “The 5-year-old went outside and noticed smoke and immediately knew something was wrong. She went and alerted her grandmother who was inside the home, that there was fire.”
West then went outside, saw the fire and took action to evacuate the house and call 911, Wallace said. The fire was reported around 12 p.m. Tuesday.
“She made early notification to the Harnett County 911 Center,” Wallace said. “They were able to respond fairly rapidly and preserve a lot of what could have been (lost in) a devastating event, had the grandmother not been notified. A lot of their stuff could have been a lot worse off.”
The house was not deemed to be a total loss after the blaze, according to Wallace. A family vehicle parked in the carport and the laundry room were not as lucky.
Wallace estimated the destruction at around $30,000 and said most of the damage to the living area of the house was contributed to water and heat. He described damage to the living space as “fairly minimal.”
“We are attributing that to the public education the young lady received in preschool,” Wallace said. “She was so quick and calm to act and to insure that her grandmother knew and thus preserving their life and a lot of their property.”
Wallace said the cause of the fire was electrical and is considered to be accidental and unintentional.
He said firefighters from the Black River Angier Fire Department initially responded to the scene. They were assisted by the Buies Creek Fire Department, Northwest Harnett Fire Department and Harnett County EMS.
When they arrived on the scene they found the carport engulfed in flames.
“The fire had extended to the carport area, the fire had burned up the van that was in and under the carport,” he said. “It had begun to get into the attic space. But they were able to get there and keep it from getting into the living space.”
Wallace said not only was property and lives saved because of the little girl’s quick thinking, family pets were also able to survive the blaze.
He said one pet was taken out of the house by the grandmother when they initially evacuated and the remainder of the family pets were saved by firefighters, including one dog, which received treatment on scene by the use of a pet oxygen mask, and a bearded dragon.
“I want to make sure we attribute the result to early detection, early notification and early response,” Wallace said. “This week we’re promoting the state’s fire prevention message which is ‘plan your escape, not every hero wears a cape.’”
Wallace credited Taylor with paying attention and following the message.
“In this case, the hero was Taylor,” he said. “They had an escape plan and they went right out that front door and even mentioned they noticed the second exit, which was through the carport area, they couldn’t get because there was smoke too far down there.”
Wallace said the actions of Taylor and the response by her grandmother, were a great example of the impacts firefighters have on their community when they provide fire safety and prevention education.
“This was a successful message that we’ve seen in real life,” Wallace said. “It started because [the] fire department was able to get out and share the messages we’re pushing this week.”
Wallace credited the family with not only following its escape plan, but for also not going back into the residence, which would have put their lives in more danger.
“The important message is that those folks were able to get out and didn’t go back into the home,” he said. “They did what they were supposed to.”