Quick work saves sister

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Ten-year-old Oamaru boy Aljay Rankin is being praised for his clear thinking and quick action in saving his sister and home from a potentially disastrous fire.

On June 13, Aljay was in the shower when his 16-year-old sister, Alex, was cooking tea.

The element she was cooking chips on caught fire after some oil was spilt on it accidently.

“[Alex] came in and said `what do we do if the element is on fire?’ and I said `wet tea towel’,” Aljay said.

Instead of taking the potentially disastrous action of dousing the element with water, the Oamaru North School pupil knew to use a wet towel after a fire safety demonstration he saw at Oamaru on Fire last month.

Grabbing a towel from the adjoining laundry, they wet it in the sink and used it to put the fire out. He didn’t even take the chance of getting dressed after the shower, fighting the fire wrapped in a towel. “I was scared out of my wits, smoke alarms going,” Aljay said. “I’m just thankful that [Alex] asked me what to do and didn’t put water over it.”

His mother, Rachel, said she was incredibly proud of her son who was right up the front to watch the fire safety display last month.

“He remembered the scenarios. Got the wet towel, put it on and saved the kitchen. I probably would’ve lost a kitchen if I hadn’t taken him that night and seen that display,” Mrs Rankin said.

“He wouldn’t have known what to do at all before that night.”

Aljay took fire safety measures even further that night, by ringing the fire department even though the fire had been put out. “I’m just very, very proud. And his action to call the fire service to double check it was out,” Mrs Rankin said.

“He saved a house, and a life. Houses can be replaced, but lives can’t.”

Aljay kept his cool during the stressful ordeal, particularly impressive as he was scarred from a fire as a 3-year-old. “He knows what it’s like with a fire. When he was 3, he climbed up on top of the range, turned the element on and his pyjama pants caught on fire,” Mrs Rankin said.

Principal rural fire officer Steve Couper praised Aljay for his quick actions in preventing a much more serious fire. “We certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone to try and tackle it, the thing is to ring the fire brigade, but it was a good result, it could’ve been far worse,” Mr Couper said.

Had water been poured on the element, Mr Couper said flames would’ve likely gone all across the kitchen and probably into the laundry at the back. “They probably would’ve been able to get out of the house, but they could’ve easily become stuck in the confined kitchen area,” he said. “The flame itself might not have lasted long, but there would’ve been enough of it to spread throughout the whole room in a wooden house, so they are very lucky.”

He was particularly impressed that young Aljay had the insight to call the Fire Brigade, even after the fire was out. “From our point of view _ that’s great. We can come along and check that it is okay, because sometimes people think it’s out but we’ll end up back there at four in the morning for something much more serious,” he said.

Aljay said he’d told a few people at school about the ordeal, but some of his friends didn’t believe him. He said he was glad that he was able to put the fire out _ he would’ve hated for his extensive Lego collection to be burnt.

On Monday, Oamaru on Fire organiser Anton Roswell presented Aljay with a custom-made Oamaru on Fire hoodie and a $100 voucher for Portside Restaurant for his actions. Mrs Rankin couldn’t thank Mr Roswell and Mr Couper enough for putting on the safety demonstration.

By Rebecca Ryan