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Teens help family escape fire
By CHRIS COLLINS
Of the Baker City Herald
Steven Bork and Cody Dorman were heading downtown to visit a friend about 6:30 Wednesday night when they noticed a bright light at the back of a house just west of the Leo Adler Pathway.
That light was actually a fire burning under the eaves of the home at 1760 Valley Ave.
The 15-year-olds acted quickly to alert the occupants and to help Kari Watson and four young children escape safely.
"I'm so thankful to them," Watson said Thursday morning. "They were wonderful. They helped get the kids out and provided information to the fire department."
The teen-agers said the timing that sent them past the house at that moment was like a puzzle that fit together perfectly.
"I think we were in the right place at the right time," Cody said. "I don't really think it was a coincidence, though."
Praise was heaped upon them not only by Watson, but also by their own families. Cody is the son of Lynn and John Dorman. Steven is the son of Colinda and Travis Knight.
"It did boost our self-esteem to a great height," Cody said.
His mother said she wasn't surprised by her son's actions.
"He's always a very helpful person," Lynn Dorman said.
She was especially proud of the two teen-agers as she recalled the trauma of losing everything when her own home burned down during her sophomore year of high school.
"It was devastating to lose everything," she said. "So that is one reason I am so proud that Cody and Steven were able to help out in this situation."
Once the boys determined the house was on fire, they knocked on the outside porch door and then entered to knock on the main door when there was no answer.
The boys could see the children inside from the front-door windows.
"We opened the door and our hearts sank," Cody said. "We thought nobody was home with the kids."
A young boy at the house answered their second knock as they stood inside at the front-porch door. The boy said he knew there was a fire in the backyard where his mother had been burning shrubs in a barrel earlier in the day.
But when they told him the house was on fire, one of the children ran to get Watson, who was in the shower at the time. The 15-year-olds then helped Watson get the children, ages 2, 5, 7 and 8, to safety.
"Angel told me there was a fire," Watson said. "I ran back there looking for the kids."
She than yelled at them to get out of the house. Steven grabbed 2-year-old Zack from his high chair and they all went out the front door. They gathered on the sidewalk where Watson called 911 on her cell phone, which she had grabbed on her way out.
Cody said he and Steven attempted to douse the fire with a garden hose before firefighters arrived. Cody even ran to a neighboring home to collect more hose length for the effort. He also helped throw one of the burning mattresses over the fence to reduce the fuel supply.
Watson and the children gathered at their next-door neighbor's home until the fire was out. They were able to return to the house Wednesday night.
Firefighters worked at the scene for about an hour. The damage to the home was estimated at about $10,000 and damage to the contents was estimated at $5,000.
No one was injured.
Watson and her sons, Zackary, 2, and Andrew, 8, live at the house with Vadra Weippert and her two children, Angel Gallego, 7, and Jordan Gallego, 5. Weippert, who owns the house, was away when the fire started.
The fire apparently began in a pile of mattresses near the back porch and then was pushed by the wind into the porch and attic. The exact cause is undetermined, but it is considered a suspicious fire, said Fire Chief Tim Frost.
Because a fire doubles in size every 20 seconds, the quick action of the two boys definitely made a difference in the result, Frost said.
"It certainly was a factor in controlling it," he said.
Their efforts with the hose and moving the mattresses also contributed to the firefighters' success in stopping it quickly.
"Anything they do before we get there gives us more time," Frost said.