Credits: Veronica Henri/QMI AGENCY
TORONTO -- When 12-year-old Nicholas DeShanes saw smoke pouring out of the living room vents of his family’s north Toronto home, his reaction was automatic.
Get everyone out of the house.
Fire broke out in the basement of the Jane St. and Steeles Ave. W. townhouse that DeShanes shares with his parents and four younger siblings on Dec. 18.
One of Nicholas’ younger brothers had been playing in the basement, found his mother’s cigarette lighter and set flame to a colouring book, which quickly ignited a sofa.
DeShanes, upon seeing the smoke rising into the living room, ran to get his father, Tom. Both went down to the basement, saw through the smoke and flames coming from the couch and acted. DeShanes grabbed his brother, six-year-old Vincent, while his father picked up Angelina, 4, and Chelsea, 3.
(Anthony, 7, was already outside; DeShanes’ mom was at work.)
But after Nicholas made sure his siblings were all outside, he ran back into the house for their dog, Simba. But the smoke was too thick. The air, too hot.
Simba perished in the fire. But thanks to Nicholas’ quick thinking, it was the only casualty.
DeShanes received formal recognition Saturday from the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association. At a fire hall not far from their fire-ravaged home, Nicholas and his family were given a $500 cheque to help them have the Christmas they missed because of the fire. Each child was also given a bag of toys chosen from an association toy drive.
“I never thought something like that would happen to us,” Nicholas said, adding that a police officer at the scene of the fire had called him a “hero.”
District fire chief Mike MacDonald agreed.
“Some people have that automatic response to a challenging situation,” MacDonald said on Saturday.
“(Some of us) are followers and some are leaders. Nicholas may be one of those natural-born leaders.”