Erika Dunbar, of Northwood, 14, moved quickly, even though she was scared.
On Sept. 20, she was outside playing with her best friend, Makala Bowen, on Gardner Ave. when she noticed fire and thick smoke coming from an empty home a few yards down from her yard.
Instead of ignoring it, Dunbar ran to her mom to get help.
“It was scary. There was a lot of black smoke,” Dunbar told The Press. “I have never seen a house on fire and it scared me. I almost started crying.”
Dunbar remembered what she was told by members of the Northwood Fire Department when they visited her elementary school not too long ago.
“I remember them saying to go and get an adult and call 911,” she said. “I ran and told my mom about the fire. I told her to call 911.”
Jenni Cannon, Dunbar’s mom, explained that she was at her neighbor’s home when her daughter came running in.
“She was freaking out about the house being on fire,” Cannon said. “She said I had to come now. She told me to bring my phone.”
Once Cannon saw the fire, she called 911. The fire department was on the scene quickly, dousing the flames in minutes, Cannon said.
Cannon described her daughter, an eighth grade student at Northwood High School, as a “good girl.”
“I am very proud of her,” Cannon said. “She found it, came and got me and knew it was the right thing to do.”
According to Fire Chief Joel Whitmore, the firefighters were able to control the fire within 10 to 15 minutes.
Thanks to Dunbar’s quick actions, he said, firefighters were able to respond sooner to put out the fire.
“It was because of Erika’s early notification that the fire did not get much bigger,” said Whitmore.
In appreciation, council and Mayor Mark Stoner recognized Dunbar with a proclamation and a gift basket containing hair products, gift certificates, and a free pedicure and haircut.
“This really was a good thing,” Whitmore said. “A lot of the time, the youth today get a bad rap for doing things wrong. It is refreshing to see a kid make a very good decision. We like to recognize the ones who do good things. Maybe next time, another kid in a similar situation, will do same thing.”
Bob Anderson, city administrator, said he was thrilled the city was able to recognize a young person for a positive deed.
“Recognizing Erika was such a nice thing,” Anderson said. “When a young person cares enough to do something when there is something wrong, it sends a great message and it shows her maturity. Many people might have thought it was someone else’s problem. She stepped up to the plate and did what we all hope we would do in that circumstance.”
Dunbar said her friends are very proud of her. She said she hopes other kids will, if faced with a similar emergency, call 911.
“I did not want to see the house burn down or turn into a bigger fire. I would tell kids that if they see a fire, go to their parents and have them call 911,” she said.
The fire is currently under investigation, according to Whitmore.