Sherry Blackburn gets emotional when talking about the June 29 call from her 13-year-old son Perry, telling her a grease fire had engulfed the kitchen of their Ingold home.
“I got the call at work,” she explained. “He was screaming and crying, saying, ‘momma the house is on fire, the house is on fire.’ All I could hear was him yelling and coughing. It was just overwhelming because I was 20 minutes away and all I heard was him coughing. I kept yelling for him, but he didn’t answer; I thought he passed out.”
Frantic, Blackburn, who works at Sampson Correctional Institute, got a ride from a co-worker and arrived at her home to find her 13-year-old son lying face down on the porch.
“I ran up there on the porch, calling his name, and when he looked up at me his face, arms and body was covered in black soot,” she recalled said. “He had on a yellow T-shirt and it was all black.”
On that morning, Perry, a Sampson Middle School student, was staying with his grandmother, who lives next door to the family.
“They were out in the garden picking peas and he got hungry,” his mother explained. “So he came in our house and put on some grease to cook him some french fries.”
Perry, who was taught to cook by his mother many years ago so that, “when he gets married he can cook for his wife,” she said.
After he put on the grease, the teen, concerned for his grandmother who has back problems, thought he heard her yell his name and went outside to check on her. “When he came back in, the grease was on fire in the pan,” explained Blackburn.
Although he does not remember every detail of the incident, Perry did say when went back to the kitchen, flames were jumping off the pan.
“When I came back in, all I saw was the flame and smoke all over the place,” he recalled. “It was high, but not to the ceiling. I knew I had to do something.”
Instinctively, Perry grabbed the ice maker and tossed it on the fire before running out of the house to grab a water hose and bring it in the house, spraying water on the fire.
That is typically what firefighters would call an absolute no-no.
According to First Aid.com, you should never put water on a grease fire. Instead, the proper way to smother a grease fire is to cover it with a pan lid, smother it with baking soda or put it out with a fire extinguisher.
In spite of that, a determined Perry, along with some luck, managed to spray just enough water on the blaze to put it out.
“The guy who gave me a lift home is a volunteer firefighter and he told me he was really lucky because Perry could have had the grease pop back on him or he could have been electrocuted because he was standing in puddles of water,” she said. “Water was everywhere in the kitchen.”
After Perry extinguished the fire, covered head-to-toe in soot, he ran back into the house and grabbed the family’s Boston Terrier, Precious, as well as the family guinea pig, Digger.
“He got the dog and ran back in to get the guinea pig,” his mother said, pride rising in her voice.
Both animals were in cages.
“It was just the fire at first,” Perry explainced, “but there was so much smoke, I knew I had to go back and get them.”
When it was all said and done, damage to the house was estimated to be close to $30,000, an expense the family’s insurance will cover.
“We have stayed at a hotel for three weeks,” Blackburn said. “We had to have all the walls, ceilings, furniture and everything cleaned. We went back and were sitting in folding chairs.”
The cabinets over the stove were completely destroyed since the flames finally reached the ceiling before Perry put it out.
“He saved the house,” his mother said matter-of-factly. “There are some damages, but we have our home and pets because of Perry. He is a hero. He saved us from losing everything.”
Ironically, because he was the one who put the grease on the stove in the first place, he was afraid his mother would be mad when she saw him.
“I was really happy to see my mom, but I thought I was going to get in trouble,” Perry admitted.
He was wrong.
Blackburn said it could have happened to anyone.
“It was an accident,” his mother asserted. “You know, Perry cooks all the time. He is a very good cook, but this was an accident.”
In fact, she said, on that morning, she is sure someone was watching over Perry.
“We don’t go to church all the time like we ought to,” she admitted. “We go and then fall off and then go back again, but when he stays with my mom, they go to church.”
Sherry’s mother told her a story of Perry asking how many times she prayed. “My momma told him that she prays all the time,” she said, “and he told her he prayed six or seven times a day, which he does … I feel like He was with him that day. Because if it hadn’t been for Him looking over Perry, it could have been a lot worse.”
Perry shakes his head when asked if the incident brought him closer to God. “Yes, it did,” he said.
“In all honesty, it really could have been a lot worse,” his mother said. “If the fire got into the insulation, the whole house would have went up like that,” she said, snapping her fingers. “I am just grateful that he is OK.”
The family, including Blackburn’s husband, Frank, and Perry’s younger sister, Brittany, who was at daycare at the time of the incident, will have nearly another month until their house is back to normal.
“I’m not planning on cooking for a while,” said Perry seriously. “It is going to be a while … I have seen enough fire for a while.”
In addition to the already close family, the incident has also shown the family how special they are to close friends.
“Everyone just gave us an outpouring of support,” Blackburn said said. “My co-workers at the prison and Bath and Body Works, BackYard Buddies at First United Methodist Church, our families, Betsy Thornton and God, I just thank them for keeping my son safe. It has been a blessing to have them show their love and support for us during all of this. It has been incredible and I just thank all of them.”
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.