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Young Penticton boy led his family through a fire emergency

Eight-year-old Bruin is feeling proud after evacuating his family – including his little brother Brooks – from their home after noticing a fire on the property.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

It was around 2:30 a.m. one morning last month when Bruin Burlingame was woken up by sounds of banging from the floor below, before noticing the trees outside his window were burning bright enough to illuminate his bedroom.

The eight-year-old immediately knew to start evacuating the family home.

“He came in and said ‘"Fire! Fire! Wake up! Wake up!’” his mother Jennifer Burlingame recalls.

Bruin is known for walking in his sleep, so when he woke up his parents that night, Burlingame needed an extra moment to process the situation.

“I thought he was dream walking.”

But the banging from downstairs was continuing and helped Burlingame realize there was an emergency.

“I was like ‘this isn’t a joke, get up, get up,’” she said.

The banging was coming from Bruin’s cousin, 21-year-old Bryce who live in the family’s basement suite, which is a separate unit.

“His fast thinking to just knock and bang – if he didn’t wake up and the fire spread, who knows.”

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Bruin’s windows were covered by blackout curtains. Once Burlingame opened them, “his entire room was lit up orange,” she said. “It was just a glow.”

The eight-year-old boy was adamant that his family had to get to safety, and he made sure nobody was forgotten – including his younger brother Brooks who was still asleep at that point. 

“He was so worried about his little brother.”

In preparation for exactly this type of situation, Burlingame has an emergency box prepared.

“We have one little box for all our special moments.”

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But all Burlingame could think about in that moment was getting her kids to safety. So it wasn’t until she got outside before she remembered the special box. And her sons – who were wearing nothing except the underwear they were sleeping in – were standing outside in frigid March temperatures. So she wanted to grab some warm clothes for them as well.

The mother was willing to take the risk of running back inside to grab the warm clothes and the box, but she was prevented from doing so as Bruin is a strict enforcer of fire safety.

“Bruin was like, ‘No mom, don’t go back in.’”

However, he did show some leniency and allow his mom to grab car keys, which were hanging within reach of the entrance. The family was then able to keep warm in their car.

Penticton firefighter Curtis Gibbons was part of the crew that responded to the call. When he heard about Bruin’s heroic efforts, he rubbed the boy on the head and told him how great he is.

Burlingame found that heartwarming.

“He is so proud of himself.”

She said emergency crews were on scene for about 90 minutes before letting the family know it was safe to go back inside around 4 a.m. Before taking off, firefighters gifted both brothers with plush toys of Sparky the Fire Dog.

“The kids were all jacked but they had to go to sleep for school the next day.”

Image Credit: SUBMITTED

The fire burned eight cedar trees that were on the family’s property, about 20 to 25 feet from the children’s windows, she said.

“They were very well established and they were healthy, probably about 20 feet high.”

She said the firefighters’ best guess is that somebody threw a cigarette into the trees earlier in the day, causing it to smoulder for hours before lighting up. However the cause has not been determined.

Burlingame finds it peculiar how all eight burned at the “exact same intensity,” and how the flames all went out at the same time.

An email to the Penticton Fire Department was not responded to before publication. 

The family plans on replacing the trees, “but now I’m terrified about having them so close to children’s side of the house,” Burlingame said.

The aftermath of the cedar trees that were lost to a fire at the Burlingame home.
The aftermath of the cedar trees that were lost to a fire at the Burlingame home.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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