ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – The Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District honored a 7-year-old hero at its meeting Nov. 28, presenting a Life Safety Award to Shaun Dean Mielke Jr. for his courage in saving his family and his neighbors from a house fire.
Fire Chief John Nixon presented Shaun with the certificate.
“In recognition and appreciation of your alert actions on Nov. 7, 2018 by notifying the occupants of the house about the fire and the presence of mind to assist them in evacuating the home under very dangerousconditions,” Nixon said. “I hereby declare you as an honorary junior firefighter with our department.”
Shaun also received a special T-shirt with that designation, a medal for bravery – and a round of applause.
How does it feel to be a hero?
“Good,” Shaun said, seemingly oblivious to his rock-star status.
“You can’t replace people. You can replace stuff,” Shaun said. “I learned that from my dad.”
Shaun was with his mother in a duplex she rents in the 6N600 block of Wyoming Avenue in St. Charles Township about 4:15 p.m. Nov. 7 when he said he smelled smoke.
Ashley Mielke said she was just getting ready to help her son with his math homework.
“We started smelling the furnace vents to see if the furnace was kicking on,” Mielke said. “And so we were investigating that and could not find it [the source of the smoke smell] anywhere.”
Then her boyfriend came home and said there was fire coming out of the roof next door.
“We went outside and the neighbor girl opened her door and my boyfriend yelled, ‘Get out! Get out ! There’s a fire!’ And she went to go shut door,” Mielke said.
“My son slammed into it, pushed into the house and ran yelling‘Fire! Fire! Fire!’ through their house,” Mielke said. “He ran from the back door through the house and out the front door.”
The neighbors in the other half of the duplex – a mom, a teen daughter, two small children and a dog – all made it out safe, Mielke said – as did she, her son and their dog.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Mielke said. “I ran in the house to grab my phone to call 911 and I did not know he was running through the other unit. Before my boyfriend could say anything, he was already out the front door.”
Mielke said as the boy’s father has residential custody, he attends second grade at Clinton Elementary School in South Elgin.
'This could have been very tragic'
Nixon said Shaun definitely was a hero that day.
“It was important that he have the presence of mind to know what to do,” Nixon said.
Capt. John Rice, who was at the fire, praised Shaun’s presence of mind to do the right thing.
“This could have been very tragic,” Rice said.
The fire started in the attic above the bathroom door in the neighboring unit, and if there had been working smoke detectors, the smoke would not have gotten to them quickly, Rice said.
“He thought well to recognize an emergency and pursue it,” Rice said. “His persistence saved the day. If it had been 2 a.m. and the families were sleeping, the outcome could have been very tragic.”
The cause of the fire was an electrical malfunction that firefighters believe to be the bathroom fan, Nixon said.
“The attic had a small separation in it to protect the east unit from the west unit. The two units were divided by a common wall that is fire-rated,” Nixon said.
The estimate of damage is about $20,000 for both units, with most of the damage in the west unit, where the fire started, Nixon said.
'He is just an amazing kid'
Mielke and the other family are staying with friends as their units are not habitable.
In the meantime, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help them, at www.gofundme.com seeking money as well as clothes and food.
Mielke said she is grateful to have such a smart, brave son.
“He’s always been motivated and he just wants to help anybody he can,” Mielke said. “I don’t know how to express how proud I am. He is just an amazing kid. He’s my baby.”
Shaun’s father, Shaun Mielke Senior, said he was proud that his son paid attention during a recent tour of a South Elgin fire station.
“He made the right choices,” his father said.