"We're really scared:" Roanoke county fire highlights danger of candles around the holidays

Published: Dec. 4, 2019 at 5:36 PM EST
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Like any 10-year-old, Emma Degeorgis likes showing off her favorite things, like her stuffed puppy, or her box of jewelry.

But take a look around Emma's room now, and you'll see what sets her apart.

"They had to go through my wall," she said Wednesday, "to make sure there was no fire in the ceiling."

Last month, Emma and her older brother, Ethan, were home alone. It was late on a Friday. Ethan, who has autism, left out a lit candle, right next to his bed.

You can guess what happened next.

Within minutes, the fire spread, consuming Ethan's room. With no one else around, it was up to Emma to get her brother out, and keep him calm until first responders could arrive.

"It's a tragic event to have a fire, but this is the best positive outcome that we could have," said Roanoke County Fire Chief Steve Simon. According to Simon, lit candles that are left out start several fires a month in the county. And they don't always end well.

"Sometimes they can have a very tragic outcome," he said.

Simon says what made the difference here was planning and preparation. The Degeorgis family had an emergency plan and working fire alarms. The alarm company, ADT, was able to contact the fire department immediately. And first responders were able to arrive on scene within minutes.As a result, the house may have been damaged, but it survived.

"I'm sure we would have lost the whole house, if I didn't have that warning system," said Nancy Degeogis, Emma and Ethan's mom.

Nancy said the fire was a lesson in thankfulness, both for what she has left, and the daughter who was able to step up when the worst happened.

"It's easy to remember that when your kids are 10, yes they're kids, but they have a surprising maturity in there," she said.

Copyright 2019 WDBJ7. All rights reserved.

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