Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Girl's quick thinking saved her siblings

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Jason Thorsteinson had just got to work Tuesday morning when he got a text from his 14-year-old daughter Sherisse saying there had been a fire in the family's home outside Lundar.

Sherisse was at home babysitting her three siblings, ages 10, 9 and 8.

Thorsteinson arrived home to see his two-storey house in flames and his four children safely outside.

"Two rooms were burned out with pretty excessive smoke and water damage throughout," said Thorsteinson, a volunteer firefighter in Lundar. He began fighting the blaze himself upon arrival.

His wife, Leslie Webb, arrived on the scene earlier.

She had just got to work at a Lundar daycare when RCMP arrived to tell her of the fire. She rushed to the family's home, relieved to see the children were safe.

"They just kept saying 'Oh my God, oh my God, Mom,' over and over again. I found out that it was my daughter who was the hero," said Webb.

According to Webb, she had left for work Tuesday morning at about 8:45 a.m., leaving Sherisse in charge. The teenager lives in Winnipeg and has been babysitting her siblings throughout the summer.

Sherisse and her three siblings were watching television that morning. Just after 9 a.m., Sherisse's eight-year-old brother wandered into his room and noticed flames and smoke in his parent's connecting bedroom.

He quickly told Sherisse, who took action.

"We walked into my parent's room to check it out and the fire was already huge because it had caught onto some hanging clothes on the wall. I told everyone to get out. I grabbed my phone and called 911 as I ran out of the house," said Sherisse. "About two minutes later, we were outside and the door flew open from all the pressure from all the flames and smoke. We ran further down the street and help came pretty quickly after."

Sherisse, who is entering Grade 10 at Glenlawn Collegiate in September, said she did what anyone would have done in her situation.

"I still feel frightened today. I'm just scared because it felt like it could have happened when I wasn't there. My family says I'm a hero, but I just did what I had to do," said Sherisse.

"I was just so proud of her. She was terrified and she acted so quickly," said Thorsteinson.

RCMP in Lundar are applauding the young girl and said the unfortunate incident serves as a testament to responsible child care.

"That's the importance of having a mature person with your children. That's the importance of having a fire safety plan. Obviously, this girl was very quick-thinking and knew what had to be done. They were very mature and responsible actions," said Sgt. Richard Marshall of the Lundar RCMP.

The family's home is a total loss after the fire, said Marshall. A damage estimate is not yet available.

Initial investigations have revealed the fire was accidental, stemming from an alarm clock in the parent's bedroom.

The couple and their children are currently staying with family. They plan to rebuild the home on the same lot.

"We all woke up this morning hoping it was a terrible dream. It's extremely overwhelming. I don't know if a week from now it will have even sunk in yet," said Webb.

"Yeah, it probably has ruined our summer. However, my kids are safe so that's all I really care about."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2012 A3

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