Kindergartner Saves Dad from Burning Home
Kenneth Riggins and his daughter, Angelica, then 5 years old, had fallen asleep on the couch in their Tulsa house when he was awakened around 2 a.m. by their dogs -- and the smell of smoke. He followed the trail to a small room adjacent to a back bedroom. "I opened the door, and a backdraft of fire came in the doorway," says Riggins, a substitute elementary-school teacher and single dad. After pushing the door shut, he ran to the living room and woke up Angelica, shouting at her to get out quickly.
The kindergartner, who had recently attended a demonstration at her school led by Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog, knew exactly what to do. "The smoke was everywhere, so I crawled under it and out of the house, just like Sparkles taught me," Angelica says. "I was really scared, but I moved as fast as I could." She ran straight to the home of a neighbor, who called 911. When the fire department arrived a few minutes later, Angelica told them she hadn't seen her dad and that he might still be in the house.
She was right. After exiting, Riggins had returned with a flashlight from his truck to look for a friend's 5-year-old girl who had been staying with them. "I was so confused from all the smoke that I forgot her mom had picked her up earlier," he says. Firefighters found Riggins unconscious in the living room. As they carried him out the front door, the back of the house erupted in flames. (An investigation concluded that some faulty electrical wiring in the ceiling had caused the fire.) Riggins spent the next week in the hospital, suffering from smoke inhalation and minor burns, but he's made a complete recovery. "If Angelica hadn't run to our neighbors for help, I wouldn't have made it," Riggins says.
Since the fire, Angelica and her dad have moved -- to a home across the street from their old one.
Life-Saving Tip: Have a fire evacuation plan. Locate two escape routes from every room and an outdoor meeting place. Stage a fire drill twice a year. Set off the smoke alarm for your child, explaining that it means "Get out!" Teach him to touch the door to the room with the back of his hand if there is a fire. If it's hot, he should escape through a window; if it's cool, he can open it and crawl to the nearest exit.