Boy uses fire safety skills to escape Castle Shannon house fire with mom
By Michael Hasch
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013, 6:57 a.m.
Updated: Friday, March 15, 2013
When Ben Honsinger heard a stranger pounding on the door early Thursday and screaming that the house was on fire, the fourth-grader remembered the fire safety skills he learned at school and did not panic.
“They told us to stay low to the ground if there is a fire,” he said of the escape he and his mother, Melodie Honsinger, made unharmed from the burning duplex along Cooke Drive in Castle Shannon.
“I remembered that smoke always rises to the top, and the fresh air is always at the bottom. We got on the floor and crawled down the stairs and outside,” said Ben, 10, reflecting on the fire safety program held last year in Jubilee Christian School in Mt. Lebanon. He now attends St. Bernard School, also in Mt. Lebanon.
One firefighter suffered a neck injury when part of the ceiling collapsed in the other side of the duplex, which is vacant, said Castle Shannon fire Chief Bill Reffner.
The flames, which burned through the roof, were mostly contained to the vacant side, but the Honsinger home sustained smoke and water damage, he said.
The stranger — possibly a passer-by on his way to work — awakened Melodie Honsinger about 4:45 a.m. by pounding on the door, according to Reffner.
“He was screaming, ‘Fire! Fire! Get out! Your house in on fire!' There was smoke in the house,” said Honsinger, 35.
“Ben knew just what to do. He was actually very calm. He knew to stay low. He was great. He did a really good job.”
Her son admits, rather sheepishly, that looks can sometimes be deceiving.
“Actually, I was pretty scared, but I didn't show it,” the boy said.
Mother and son credit the fire safety program that Mt. Lebanon firefighters held in Jubilee Christian.
“Ben had homework assignments to draw up a plan of what to do if there is a fire and map out an escape route,” Melodie Honsinger said.
When he realized it was a real fire, her son said, “it all clicked.”
Reffner said the cause of the blaze remains under investigation, but it may have started in a bathroom fan in the vacant unit, which is undergoing renovations.
Firefighters from Castle Shannon, Mt. Lebanon, Bethel Park, Dormont and Whitehall took 20 minutes to bring the flames under control.
The chief said Mt. Lebanon firefighters are making plans to recognize Ben, who said he wants to be a forensic scientist or join the FBI when he grows up.
“If that doesn't work out,” Reffner said, “he is always welcome to join us.”
Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Margaret Harding contributed to this report.
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