Two high school students and a man are being credited with saving an Allenhurst family’s home on Feb. 22.
A fire that started in the laundry room could have destroyed the home had it not been for Joseph Bulnes, 18, Matthew Hoffman, 16 and Robert Smith.
“It was just instinct,” Smith said, explaining the neighbor’s 13-year-old daughter ran to his house, saying her house was on fire. “That’s what a good neighbor does… There were two adults and four children in the house.”
He said the family had already fled the house when he, Bulnes and Hoffman entered. Bulnes said he wasn’t afraid of the flames or smoke.
“I’m not just going to sit there and watch someone’s house burn down,” Bulnes said. “Once she told us the situation, we had to do something about it.”
After seeing the fire, he said they ran to get fire extinguishers, came back and put the flames out. Smith added they turned off the power at an outside breaker box because the fire appeared to be where a dryer was plugged in.
Bulnes said the family was getting ready for bed when the fire started at around 9:30 p.m. He said the mother told him she was folding clothes in a bedroom. The other adult was asleep on a couch. Bulnes said the 13-year-old told her mother there was smoke in the kitchen. The mother called 911 and told the girl to go get help.
Walthourville Fire Chief Terry Satterfield acknowledged that his department responded to a house fire on Retriever Way that evening. He said the fire was confined to the laundry room and was apparently out by the time they got there. Firefighters ensured the fire had not gotten inside the wall and completely out.
The neighbors will tell you they don’t think of themselves as heroes, but Bulnes’ mother, Maureen, said they are, taking risks to help others. She added they’ve expressed a desire to be firemen.
“They are heroes,” said Maureen Bulnes, who is proud of her Bradwell Institute senior. “But they’re modest. I’ve raised my son to be willing to help others. I think his friends were raised the same way. Their personalities are pretty much in sync.”