Nine-year-old girl saves family after mobile home catches fire

The tragedy could’ve been worse, if not for the quick actions of a nine-year-old girl
Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 11:24 PM EST
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TABOR CITY, N.C. (WECT) - Flames tore through a home late Sunday night in Tabor City, as family members slept.

“Time we looked out the window, right after that, the whole top of the house was on fire. Like the roof was on fire,” said neighbor Suzanne Buffkin.

The home was engulfed in flames completely. The tragedy could’ve been worse, if not for the quick actions of a nine-year-old girl. The girl said she woke up feeling a lot of heat in her room, and then woke up her five-year-old sister. After getting her out of bed, they ran screaming past the flames to alert the rest of the family.

“Like I told her when I met her at the hospital this morning, I told her, ‘You are a hero.’ I said, ‘With you, you woke up everybody in the house and they safely got out of the house,’” said Columbus County Fire Marshal Shannon Blackmon. “Even though they had some burning, they were still able to get out of the home.”

Blackmon says a space heater caused the fire. The family turned it on to stay warm before going to sleep, and woke up to it burning.

Neighbor Suzanne Buffkin says she’s not surprised by the nine-year-old’s bravery.

“I could see this. She’s like an old soul. Like, she kind of looks after her sister and her momma,” said Buffkin.

All six members made it out of the house, but nothing is recoverable. Blackmon said five of the family members are in hospitals being treated for second and third degree burns.

“It was really sad, they lost everything. They didn’t have a lot, but now they have nothing,” said Buffkin.

Blackmon shares these tips for preventing these types of tragedies:

  • Give space heaters at least a three foot clearance all the way around them.
  • If your heaters are old, purchase new ones so there’s a lower chance of them overheating.
  • Make sure you have working smoke detectors in the house.
  • Don’t plug any type of heaters into extension cords, they are only meant to be plugged directly into the wall.
  • Do not use ovens or stoves to heat your home.
  • If you’re using gas heaters, don’t have the propane cylinders inside of homes. Have them piped to the outside.
  • Don’t use extension cords, drop cords, etc.

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