Boy rouses family from fire

There was no smoke detector in the house, but Eugene Thomas, 9, alerted family members when he smelled smoke.

Published December 13, 2005

TAMPA - A 9-year-old Tampa boy likely saved his grandparents, toddler brother and uncle from serious injury Tuesday, when he roused them out of bed after a fire broke out in his bedroom.

According to Tampa Fire Rescue officials, the fire started after 7:30 a.m. in Eugene Thomas' bedroom, where several items plugged into a power strip caused it to overload and spark. There was no smoke detector in the house, but it wasn't long before Eugene - who was getting ready for school - smelled smoke.

He ran into his grandparents' bedroom and into the living room where his uncle slept, shouting "Fire!"

Then he called 911.

"Without him, they would have died," said Eugene's aunt, 64-year-old Minnie Pearl Harns. "He saved their lives."

The fire swept through the 825-square-foot home, causing at least $80,000 in damage. It destroyed most of Eugene's clothes and his new X-Box 360. But no one was injured.

And that made the Roland Park Elementary and Middle School third-grader a hero in his family's eyes.

"He is a very brave man," said Eugene's grandfather, 82-year-old Preston Williams. "He didn't panic."