Firefighters honour 12-year-old hero

Firefighters honour 12-year-old hero
By Chet Greason
Stratford Gazette
Link to article: Firefighters honour 12-year-old hero

Hannah Sims
Perth East/West Perth Fire Chief Bill Hunter presents his department’s first ever commendation to Hannah Sims. - Michael Harding photo

The Perth East Fire Department has handed out its first ever Fire Chief’s Commendation, an honour specifically created for 12-year-old Hannah Sims.

Hannah was looking after her two brothers, Tyler (9) and Nate (2) at her family’s former home in Perth East on June 1 of this year. Her father was at the gym, while her mother was over at Hannah’s grandparents’ house.

According to Hannah, she was sitting on her bed reading and listening to music on an old stereo of her mother’s. She heard a popping noise and looked over at the stereo, noticing a calendar nearby had caught fire.

That fire was later deemed to have been caused by the stereo’s faulty power cord.

Hannah first went to the kitchen sink, under which the family’s fire extinguisher was kept; but when she returned to her room, she saw that the fire had spread. She also realized that she didn’t know how to operate the fire extinguisher.

So, closing the door behind her- which helped to contain the fire from quickly spreading throughout the house- she made her way down the hall and collected her two brothers. The three children then made their way outside to an oak tree on the property’s front lawn, a predetermined meeting place Hannah had previously decided upon with her parents.

She then called her mother, Shawna, from the family’s cordless landline. Shawna arrived quickly, and called the fire department.

The Perth East Fire Department was able to extinguish the fire. Though Hannah’s room was destroyed, much of the remaining home was saved, suffering only smoke damage.

Hannah and her family have since relocated to a home in St. Marys; Hannah herself has changed schools, from St. Aloysious in Stratford to Holy Name of Mary in St. Marys.

She credits an educational presentation made at her former school about home fire safety for her quick action.

“That night, I talked to my mom about it... Where our meeting place should be... And I ended up remembering it,” she reports.

Hannah only learned that she was going to receive recognition from the fire department a few days before the ceremony. There, she received the first ever Fire Chief’s Commendation from Perth East/West Perth Fire Chief Bill Hunter. She also received commendations from Perth-Wellington MP John Nater, Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece, and two commendation coins.

Despite the accolades, Hannah’s not sure she’s ready to have everyone calling her a hero.

“A lot of people tell that to me, but I don’t really feel like one,” she says. “I just feel like I did something to help.”

Hannah says she hopes others will learn from what she did, and stay safe if they’re ever faced with a fire in their home.

“Obviously, figure out where to meet; and know what you’re going to do,” she advises. “And stay as calm as possible, and get out of the house as quick as you can.”

Hannah’s mother, Shawna, says her daughter took some time to recover from the shock of the fire. Shawna and her husband, Steve, frequently tell Hannah that she did everything right.

“We tell her all the time, that it could’ve been a different scenario if she had not stayed so calm.

“Talk to your kids,” Shawna adds, regarding home fire safety. “It’s so important to have these conversations."

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