First grader saves home from catching fire

Lindsay CravenStaff Writer

February 12, 2013

A 7-year-old girl is responsible for the safety of a family and is the reason their house is still standing today.

Ayla Brewer, a first grader at West Yadkin Elementary, can be shy and silly like most girls her age. But when it came to life or death on Feb. 4, Brewer put her knowledge of fire safety to use and saved a Hamptonville family’s home and quite possibly their lives.

It was approximately 10 p.m. on Feb. 4 when Ayla Brewer was walking out of the West Yadkin Volunteer Fire Department where her father is a firefighter and EMT. She looked at the neighboring house that and noticed that there were flames coming from the chimney.

“I was walking outside with my sister, and I saw smoke and I saw fire,” Ayla said. “I went back in and told my mom and she told the firefighters. It scared me.”

Ayla quickly ran back inside to tell her mom, Stephanie, what she saw and ask from help from her father and his fellow firefighters.

“It scared me to death,” Stephanie said. “I was hoping that she was just playing and I looked outside and flames were just rolling out.”

Ayla’s father, Andy, was one of the firefighters who responded to the blaze, and he said it was the worst chimney fire he had ever seen.

“When we came out of the station the bottom of the chimney was blowing flames out of each side of it about three feet,” Andy said. “There was a lot of fire coming out of that chimney.”

Andy said that firefighters had to remove the wood from the fire burning in the fireplace and tried to use a chimney snuffer to put out the blaze within the chimney but were not successful.

“It couldn’t get to the fire because of buildup so I ran my hand up the chimney with a fire extinguisher and with the draft pulling up it pulled all that chemical up and knocked a lot of the fire out,” Andy said. “From start to clean up we were probably there for about 45 minutes to an hour.”

The owner of the home, Jennifer Swanner, is a family friend of the Brewers and works with Ayla’s aunt at Yadkin Valley Community Hospital. Swanner says she was asleep in an upstairs bedroom when the fire took place and that her husband and mother-in-law were also in the house and unaware of what was happening.

“I was upstairs asleep and wasn’t aware anything was going on,” Swanner said. “My mother-in-law had just had surgery for cancer and she heard people from the fire department yelling and that’s what woke her up. Had it not been for Ayla seeing that and going and notifying the fire department our house could have actually caught on fire and we wouldn’t have known anything about it.”

According to Swanner’s insurance adjuster, the heat from the fire in the chimney was enough to melt the insulation in the attic and was only minutes from setting fire to the attic and upstairs bedrooms.

“The chimney is probably going to have to be replaced,” Swanner said. “It did just a little bit of damage to the roof and on the inside most of the damage is just smoke related.”

Once Ayla realized that her actions saved Swanner’s home she said she felt good and she was proud of herself for her heroic act.

Ayla said that she has always been interested in the work of the fire department has wanted to be a firefighters as long as she could remember.

“She’s always wanted me to give her training and I’ll point stuff out on the truck and make her find it,” Andy said. “I was tickled that she caught this fire and helped stop it. This is our little junior firefighter.”

Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at lcraven@civitasmedia.com.