9 year old saves 4-year-old brother from truck fire

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Credits local volunteer firefighters for know-how

By Molly Haines

For 9-year-old Jeremiah Jury, assisting his parents with his little brother’s car seat has always been a struggle. The elder brother freely admits that his thumbs just aren’t strong enough to release the seat’s buckle.
But on a recent trip to the Owen County Transfer Station, all of that changed.
Jeremiah and his 4-year-old brother Josiah climbed inside the cab of their dad Tony’s Dodge Dakota June 30, and set out for the station to unload a few unwanted items during the county’s Free Dump Day.
While sitting in line at the station, Tony heard what his wife Kristy described as a “whoosh” sound, and saw smoke begin rolling out from underneath the hood of the truck. He immediately pulled out of the line and into an adjoining empty lot where he exited the vehicle and told Jeremiah to do the same.
With Josiah still buckled into his car seat on the passenger’s side, Tony ran to the other side of the truck to release his youngest son from the vehicle. But when he realized the doors were locked, it was up to Jeremiah to unbuckle Josiah and see that the two got out of the truck unharmed.
"I just thought, 'The truck's on fire, I've gotta get (Josiah) out,'" Jeremiah said. "So, I go over there, and I'm thinking, 'How do I do this," because I can never undo (the buckle). Somehow I figured it out — how to get the bottom (buckle) undone — and I got him out."
Once Jeremiah released Josiah from his car seat, the two were able to open the doors from the inside and escape the truck. By that time, Kristy said flames had engulfed the front end of the vehicle, eventually melting the truck's dashboard.
Moments later, members of the Owenton/Owen County Volunteer Fire Department arrived to extinguish the flames — a scene the two young brothers were not altogether unfamiliar with.
When Jeremiah was just an infant, Kristy began taking him to the Owen County Public Library each week for the ever-popular program, "Storytime With Miss Susan," where Owenton Fire Chief J.O. Powers, his assistant chiefs David Lilly and Jude Canchola and retired firefighter Richard Hampton present a fire safety program during National Fire Prevention Week each October.
During the program, the firefighters demonstrate the use of smoke detectors and bunker gear and encourage attendees to have an escape plan if a fire were to break out in their home. Using a white sheet for smoke, the firefighters demonstrate crawling as close to the ground as possible, urging "low is the way to go." Attendees are then given the opportunity to sit inside a fire truck and are shown tools necessary for extinguishing a fire.
Once Jeremiah reached school age, Kristy continued the Storytime tradition with Josiah.
In an email sent to the fire department by the boys’ grandmother, Judy Burkhead, Burkhead thanked the fire department for the training provided to the Jury brothers during Storytime With Miss Susan.
“I am amazed that a 9 year old, trapped in the back of a burning vehicle could have the presence of mind to free himself, free his brother and think how to access the lock on the door with a front seat blocking it,” Burkhead wrote. “I believe the fire safety lessons your departments provided and the discussions the parents had with children following these presentations helped my grandson think and act.”
Following the fire department's visit to the library each year, Kristy said she, Tony, Jeremiah and Josiah go over their plan for escaping the house in the event of a fire.
"A couple of times we've actually practiced it," Kristy said. "Getting down, crawling and trying to find what door we'd go to."
Since the incident, Kristy said Josiah has struggled to get into vehicles and asks to test the smoke detectors inside their home on a near-daily basis.
"Every day I go back and check my room for a smoke detector," Josiah said.
While Kristy admits it will likely take a while for Josiah to get past the incident, she remains grateful to the members of the fire department for their public education efforts and to the library for the many educational programs offered to the county.
"The library has access to a lot of educational resources and the most up-to-date information," Kristy said. "A lot of times we don't have access to that information. It's a great way to reach the public that we might not have otherwise."