NPC_burning_curiosityThere’s a creed in the fire service: while others are running away from a fire, firefighters are running toward it.

Northland Pioneer College/NAVIT Fire Science Academy Cadet Kasey Kelley is already living that creed, applying her 11 days of training to investigate and report a structure fire and aid in the rescue of a Lakeside restaurant owner.

Kelley was on her way to Blue Ridge High School, where she is a senior, at 6:25 a.m. on the morning of August 19, to catch a bus to the academy when she noticed smoke along Woodland Road. “My curiosity kicked in and I went to find the source.” She found the smoke was coming from the Dos Amigos Restaurant.

“We had been talking in class about walking around a scene to determine gas and electric cutoffs and possible ways to enter a burning structure. So that’s what I did.” She determined the smoke was indeed from a fire in the kitchen area and called 911, staying on the line with dispatchers to give them additional information as she walked around the building.

“That’s when I realized there was an adjacent residence less than 10 feet from the burning building, so I started pounding on the door to wake up anyone inside. When a man came to the door I could tell he had been sleeping and didn’t realize his business was on fire.”

Kelley said there were adults dropping off children at the adjacent Montessori school, but they all ignored the smoke coming from the restaurant.

“Cadet Kelley’s actions assisted the Timber Mesa Fire and Medical District’s response to this incident, reduced property damage and may well have saved a life,” wrote Chief Bryan Savage in a letter of commendation. The fire was confined to the kitchen area but could have easily engulfed the entire structure.

“In class we had discussed the 911 system, the role of dispatchers and the radio codes used by responders. It was so neat to actually hear the codes in use and understand what they meant.”

Kelley, who was born and raised in the White Mountains, is following in her father’s footsteps. He retired after 32 years with the Burbank California Fire Department. “I don’t want an office job, and I remember all of the stories he told about his experiences.” Next summer, the volleyball team captain plans to work as a wildland firefighter, then go to college to become a emergency medical technician (EMT) and paramedic.

– Everett Robinson