“I’m a hero.” 7-year-old praised for alerting Salem community about fire

Published: Oct. 25, 2023 at 6:18 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A seven-year-old boy from Salem is being recognized for his quick-thinking after alerting his parents and neighbors about a mobile home that caught fire.

Not all heroes wear capes... some come in the form of a second grade student.

“We have the chance to be an everyday hero,” said G. W. Carver Elementary School Principal Christina Rose. “And it doesn’t always have to be on as big of scale as what Dakota did. But we have opportunities every day in the way that we can be kind to other people and be a hero in that person’s life.”

Seven-year-old Dakota Thomas wears a red and black jacket and his kindness is his superpower. The second grader was playing outside when he smelled smoke and went to investigate.

“I noticed there was actual, a real fire,” said Dakota. “So, I went to my parents. And told them to call 911.”

Salem Fire and EMS quickly arrived to put out the fire. No injuries were reported. The fire was contained to one mobile home.

“He also went and made sure that the neighbors knew that there was a fire because there were trailers on both sides of the residence,” said Deputy Fire Marshal Todd Bedwell. “So, you know, to us, he was a hero that day.”

“I do think that not only potentially saved the people living in that home, but it also prevented it from potentially spreading to other homes nearby or other people being injured,” added Rose.

The school came together to celebrate, during the first pep rally, all the students who have gone above and beyond. Dakota received a special surprise and was celebrated for his heroic actions.

The fire happened at the end of August, but Dakota was recognized in October for Fire Prevention Month.

“It’s amazing how we teach them about fire safety,” said Dakota’s second grade teacher Janice Manns. “But to see them actually following through the plans that the firefighters teach them.”

But Dakota’s actions go beyond that one day. He does his best to help others all the time.

“Being kind with his classmates, somebody falls down, he picks him up, he volunteers all the time to hold the door for everybody,” explained Manns.

A true example that real-life superheroes are all around us.

“I’m a hero,” said Dakota.

WDBJ7 spoke to the owner of the fire-stricken mobile home. Off camera he said he was grateful to Dakota for alerting everyone. Although there were no injuries, the family lost everything in the fire. Click here to donate.