Suburban Hero: How a 7-year-old helped his neighbors escape a house fire
As Shaun Mielke Jr. ran through his neighbors' burning house last month, the only thing crossing his mind was making sure they got out safely.
The 7-year-old, who lives in an unincorporated area near St. Charles, had been doing his homework with his mom after school on a Wednesday afternoon when they started smelling smoke. After realizing it was coming from the adjacent unit in their duplex, Ashley Mielke called 911 and thought her son had gone outside to safety.
Little did she know Shaun had pushed his way into the unit that was on fire and yelled for his neighbors to get out.
The residents -- a mother and her three children -- were still evacuating when fire crews arrived shortly after 4:15 p.m., said Chief John Nixon of the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District. The building was damaged from the smoke and flames, Nixon said, but no injuries were reported.
The fire started in the attic and likely was caused by a malfunctioning bathroom fan, officials said. Firefighters told the Mielkes the outcome could have been vastly different had Shaun not acted quickly, or if the fire had sparked overnight.
"(Shaun) took immediate action to notify the families of the danger and helped get everyone out safely," Nixon said.
Ashley Mielke was a confusing mix of angry and proud when she realized her son had put himself in danger to save others. When she asked what he was thinking, Shaun responded, "You can replace stuff, but you can't replace people."
Impressed by the heroic actions of such a young boy, the responding firefighters returned the next day and invited him to the fire station for dinner. They also let him turn on the engine's lights and sirens, Ashley Mielke said.
Shaun, a Clinton Elementary School student, was honored for his bravery during a recent Fox River and Countryside fire board meeting. Nixon presented him with a medal and life safety award before designating him an honorary junior firefighter.
"I'm just super proud of him. He's my little hero," Ashley Mielke said. "You never think that your kid is going to do something like that. It really wasn't that big of a fire, but for a little one to have the initiative to go do that, it's amazing."
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