FOUR YOUNG people are being commended by the Thornhill fire chief for reacting just like firefighters in saving two men from serious fire injury.
“They were incredible. There’s no other word for that. To be calm and remember what they were taught both in school through the fire prevention program and visits and [fire] hall tours,” says Wes Patterson. “To remember those things, there’s adults that don’t remember that sometimes.”
On Jan. 11, at about 4 p.m., Murray Hamer, who lives on a farm in Thornhill, and farm helper Jess Hansen were doing some work.
Murray’s sons Patrick, 12, and Nickolas, 9, and his niece Dayne Wright 12, and nephew Parker Wright, 8, were feeding horses nearby when a blaze broke out after Jess filled a 4×4 quad from a jerry can and then moved to pour what was left into a truck.
“So he went over and started pouring it in the truck, and I guess the metal funnel and he didn’t ground himself out which I know about now, I guess a spark ignited, he started pouring fuel all over the ground and himself and was blazing away. He just sort of froze,” said Murray. “I yelled at him to drop it (the jerry can) or throw it away and get away from the truck because it (the fire) was rip roaring away. I stepped in and pulled it (the jerry can) back and threw it down the driveway and spilled more fuel around the place and on myself.
“We were both kind of flaming torches. I tried beating out the flames on him.”
Murray’s glove caught fire as a result. He dragged Jess to a nearby hydrant.
“And while I was doing that, I yelled at the kids feeding the horses at the barn. Patrick grabbed the fire extinguisher. Dayne grabbed a blanket and they ran over to us.”
Murray said his leg was burning pretty good by then.
“Parker, the youngest, said ‘stop, drop and roll.’ I thought that’s a good idea so I stopped and dropped and rolled,” said Murray.
Flames would go out while he rolled but when he got up, they would start burning again because of the gas on him, he said.
“I felt Patrick spray me down with the CO2 fire extinguisher, which was cold, but it knocked the flames out and killed the fire,” he said.
“One of the kids opened the hydrant tap and water gushed out so I slid underneath there and doused myself.”
By then, the fire on Jess had burned out as Patrick had sprayed him down with the fire extinguisher too. Dayne and Nickolas threw the blanket over him.
Murray has second degree burns on the back of one leg and his hand and Jess only suffered some singed nose hairs and a few singed hairs on his head.
“If it hadn’t been for them (the children), I would’ve been a lot worse off,” said Murray.
“It’s kind of awkward getting around now and it’s taking a while to heal,” he said. He believes that Jess didn’t get burned more because the fire was isolated to his jacket, and because the blanket was thrown over his head.
“That was my main concern: him going up in flames. He’s our guy and we’ve got to look after him,” said Murray. Last summer, Murray lit some gas in a pan and showed the kids how to use the fire extinguishers. “Patrick knew where to point the fire extinguisher at the base of the flames and Dayne and Parker learned in school about stop, drop and roll and to use a blanket to throw over somebody. They seemed to all fall in line and do what they had to do. They’re their own little fire department I guess,” said Murray.
“The kids with everything they did: stop, drop and roll and the blanket over top of Jess’s head, using the CO2 extinguisher and cooling the burns afterward are all textbook. A firefighter could not have done it better,” added Patterson.
He said it’s important to ground a gas can by putting it on the ground first and then filling it there so any static is discharged, he said.
Static can build up and release a spark when the gas can touches the car, said Patterson, adding he’s not sure if that’s what happened in this case.