In the early morning hours of November 19, eight-year-old Niccolo Owens was sleeping in a bedroom on the second story of his grandparents’ home in Whittier when he was woken by the smell of smoke. To his horror, he realized that the bed his uncle was sleeping on was on fire. Instantly, he began to cry out “Fire! Fire!,” rousing everyone in the house – his grandparents, mother, sister and uncle – from their sleep, allowing them to escape the burning home unharmed.
“If it wasn’t for my son there may have been a different outcome for our family today,” his mother Alicia told news reporters.
Our firefighters had just finished battling a second-alarm blaze at a commercial building in Pico Rivera when they were called to this residential home. Upon arrival, they found smoke and fire showing from the second floor of the single-family dwelling at the 12700 block of Beverly Boulevard. Quickly extinguishing the flames, our personnel discovered that the source of the fire had been an overloaded electrical circuit in the upstairs bedroom.
Owens is credited with saving his family’s life. Despite having smoke detectors in the home, none of them were triggered during the fire, and the family could easily have burned to death while they slept. What makes this rescue even more remarkable, outside of the boy’s young age, is how rare it is for someone to be woken by the smell of smoke.
“Fortunately, the 8-year-old’s nose transmitted information to the brain to wake him up,” said Fire Captain Brian Jordan. “Normally, smoke actually gets to your nose and renders you unconscious while you sleep.”
“This family is very lucky,” said Jordan.
Owens said he knew what to do from what he learned in school. As it turns out, the youngster attends Eagle Canyon Elementary in Chino Hills, which teaches the EDITH method, which stands for Exit Drills in the Home. EDITH encourages residents to prepare a fire escape plan, install and maintain smoke detectors, practice exit drills in the home regularly and examine their homes regularly and take steps to prevent a fire before it occurs.
To view the NBC 4 interview with Owens, click here.