COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)— When local high school student Peter Sfakianos went for a walk through his neighborhood on Friday, April 21, he didn’t expect to stop a fire. The 15-year-old smelled smoke and heard crackling, but he thought it might be a barbecue at first.
Sfakianos, a freshman at Glenwood High School in Smiths Station, Alabama said he decided to walk that evening because he did not want to sit around. He explained he only had one earbud in, which is why he noticed crackling noises and decided to investigate when he saw flames in the brush of a neighbor’s yard.
“I looked down and I see fire and, like, my mind just started racing on what to do,” said Sfakianos, who decided to call his dad for help.
Following instructions from his father, Sfakianos said he went to neighboring homes to see if anyone was home but got no answer from either house adjacent to the fire. Next, he called the police to send fire fighters.
In the meantime, Sfakianos explained he and his dad unraveled the neighbor’s hose and used buckets to toss water on the fire for the seven minutes before firefighters arrived.
Sfakianos reported the fire started out three yards across, but quickly multiplied before help arrived.
“I think he was at the right place at the right time,” said Sfakianos’ mother Susan.
She explained she hung back from the fire because she was scared but took a few videos which she sent to the home’s owner River Crest Homeowner’s Association President Rashmi Hudson.
According to Hudson, she and her husband Mark had gone to dinner and had no idea what happened when they came home less than two hours later. She had missed calls from Sfakianos’ mother, who she had only met in passing before the fire.
“I’m glad [he] walked on the property. I’m glad that we have a neighborhood that’s open enough for people to feel comfortable to do that,” said Rashmi, adding she and her husband had been concerned for the neighbors’ home since they didn’t get home from work until late at night.
Sfakianos noted he hadn’t had fire training at school aside from fire drills but the experience shifted his perspective on how things can change in an instant.
“Both of the houses that it could have affected weren’t home and just to sit and think…you could leave for work or something and come back and your house could be [gone],” said Sfakianos, who trailed off.
Hudson finished and said, “It’s scary.”
Sfakianos told people to attempt to contact homeowners and see if there was a way to help until the fire department arrived if they find themselves in a similar situation. He also noted that he and his father made sure to be a safe distance from the flames as they threw water on the fire.
The cause of the fire is not confirmed, but Hudson explained she was told it might have started when a spark from a chainsaw lit sap and debris as she had dead pine trees cut down earlier that day. She added even though she did not know which unit responded to her house’s fire, she wanted to thank the firefighters, as well.