A family in Beacon, N.Y., is lucky to be alive after a fire consuming their kitchen (pictured below after the blaze) threatened to consume their home in flames as they slept. The hero who saved them? Their 5-year-old boy.
Matthew Hansen (pictured above) woke around 4 a.m. the day before Thanksgiving, his eyes burning from the "clouds" in his room, the boy told the Poughkeepsie Journal. He couldn't tell in the dark, but they were clouds of black smoke creeping up the staircase and slowly surrounding him and his collection of stuffed animals.
"I need my eyes checked, mommy, I can't see," he called to his parents, Christina and Greg Hansen, who were asleep in their bedroom nearby. They thought Matthew was just being a kid.
"Greg said to him, 'You can't see because it's dark out and you're sleeping,' " Christina Hansen recalled.
But Matthew just knew that wasn't it. He remembered what the fire sergeants taught him at school.
"I felt something, and at school, they told us what to do if your butt is ever on fire," Matthew said. "You stop, drop and roll. You're never supposed to hide, and you're always supposed to call for help. So I called my mom and dad."
Matthew's continued cries finally roused his mom, and when she went to his room to check on him, she saw the smoke. She snatched Matthew out of bed in just his T-shirt and underwear, and whisked him downstairs in her arms and out into the cold night.
"I'm just thinking, 'Get him outside,' but ... I didn't want him to freeze," his mother said.
She ran back inside to get Matthew warm clothes while her husband began throwing water on kitchen cabinets engulfed in flame. She looked up and saw a "pitch black" kitchen covered from floor to ceiling in soot and light bulbs that had melted in their sockets.
Firefighters arrived minutes later. By then, the kitchen was "gutted," Greg Hansen said, and the dining room and bathroom were damaged. It was determined that the electric stove short-circuited and turned on, setting on fire a cupcake pan sitting on top of it.
City of Beacon Fire Administrator Michael Davis told the Poughkeepsie Journal that if the Hansen family had waited even two minutes longer to escape, it would have been too late.
"Many people have died from lack of early detection," Davis said. "This family was two minutes away from that, if not for Matthew waking up. The smoke would have blocked the stairwell."
The little boy's alertness was all the more fortunate because a smoke alarm just outside his bedroom wasn't working.
"The batteries were newly replaced in the detector, but it came with the house. It just didn't work," his father said.
"I have tears in my eyes hearing about this," said Melissa Thompson, board president of the Beacon County School District. "This is a perfect example of all the pieces of the puzzle -- the family, the school, the fire department -- coming together."
The Hansens are now looking forward to repairing their home in time for Christmas -- hopefully.
"It's going to take six years to fix it!" Matthew said. OK, that might be an exaggeration.
"A few weeks," his mother corrected. "Hopefully, we'll have a kitchen for Christmas.
"We're very lucky he woke up," she added.
Other youths who were lucky to escape serious injury recently were:
• Two Atlanta children, 6 and 2, whose mother stands accused of leaving them alone for hours in a cold, dark apartment with a gas oven on -- and it's door wide open. After a security guard happened to find the children, police arrested their mother on cruelty charges. She claimed that she'd only left them for a moment to charge her cell phone.
• A curious 2-year-old New Hampshire boy who climbed into a laundry chute at his home and slipped down 20 feet before a tangle of media cables broke his fall. Firefighters had to rescue the battered and frightened boy by cutting through the cables and plaster.
5-Year-Old Boy Saves Family From House Fire in Beacon, N.Y.
An estimated 14 million young children are injured in accidents every year, according to Underwriters Laboratories. “This is a segment of the population that can’t protect themselves,? said UL Consumer Safety Director John Drengenberg. “And every accident is preventable.? Along with choosing a safe city to live, every parent needs to read the following list of helpful tips and tricks to ensure their family’s wellbeing. Click through to discover some surprising facts and critical pointers to keep your kids safe in any apartment or house.
It may seem like a silly suggestion, but this one tip should serve as the guiding principle behind all your home safety improvements. Get down on your hands and knees and see what your child sees, says UL Consumer Safety Director, John Drengenberg. It's the only way you'll know which areas of your home require the most attention. Be on the lookout for any sharp corners that might present a safety risk or exposed wires that could wrap around your child. Any efforts to childproof your home should start from the ground up.
Nearly 40 children are sent to the hospital every day due to a heavy household appliance falling on them. Make sure to anchor and secure your furniture, like televisions, which are often supported by inadequate stands. UL Consumer Safety Director John Drengenberg warns that he's seen many cases in which families place their older, heavier television sets in their child's bedroom--often on shoddy shelving that can easily tip over. Make sure every appliance in your home is stable and secure.
Young children should understand what to do in case of a fire or carbon monoxide leak in the home. Underwriters Laboratories suggests creating a simple map to illustrate two exits from every room in the house, including windows, and a gathering point for family members to meet outside the home in case of emergency.
Never set your home water heater above 120 degrees. Anything above this threshold could cause serious burns to a child within seconds. An estimated 500,000 burn injuries are treated each year, according to the American Burn Association. A good rule of thumb, says John Drengenberg, is to run your arm under the water for 30 seconds. If the temperature remains comfortable throughout, it should be safe for your children as well.
Known as the "silent killer," carbon monoxide is tasteless, scentless and colorless -- making it especially dangerous in the winter months, when windows are shut. Make sure to test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors regularly, and to include them outside of every sleeping area, and on every level of the home.
Regardless of your city’s air quality, you can improve your own living conditions by preventing mold growth and maintaining good ventilation in the home. Underwriters Laboratories also suggests using low-VOC emitting paints and furnishings. VOC’s, or Volatile Organic Compounds, can cause chronic respiratory problems, especially in young children. Look for the low-VOC label on paint supplies before gearing up for any home improvements.
Though it may seem insignificant, the flame of a candle can reach up to 1000 degrees, according to John Drengenberg, Consumer Safety Director at Underwriters Laboratories. In addition, the National Fire Protection Association found that candles cause an estimated 15,000 home fires a year. Most people tend to underplay the danger of a candle’s flame, says Drengenberg, but families with young children should be especially vigilant. Never leave a candle unattended.
Every year more than 250 children under the age of 5 drown, with the majority of cases involving home swimming pools. Underwriters Laboratories subscribes to the 10/20 rule: be able to scan the pool in 10 seconds and reach the water within 20 seconds.
It’s important to keep an ICE, an “in case of emergency? contact. Familiarize your children with the acronym and add “ICE? to your family’s cell phones with a relevant emergency contact number, like a relative’s home number. If you’re family is separated during an emergency, ICE could help your children find aid fast.
Remember to keep harmful chemicals and medications out of the reach of children. Older family members tend to have more medication on hand, says UL Consumer Safety Director John Drengenberg, and its easy to forget prescription medicine or other potentially dangerous chemicals out in the open. Reduce your risk by keeping hazardous products in their original packaging, which often come with childproof lids. For more tips to help keep your kids safe, visit Underwriters Laboratories' Safety at Home website.