Teen who saved father from fire earns Gift of Life award from fire unit

YOUTH'S HEROISM HONORED

May 30, 1993|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Staff Writer

When 14-year-old Bobby Thompson heard the yells from the family garage one afternoon and ran out to discover his father engulfed in flames, he thought of three simple words -- stop, drop, roll.

Bobby shouted the instructions to his father, who followed them, extinguishing the fire that almost certainly would have taken his life, officials said.

Bobby was honored as a hero by the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services Friday before his classmates at Clarksville Middle School, and was presented with the Gift of Life award for using his fire safety skills and quick thinking to save his father's life.

The plaque was presented by County Executive Charles I. Ecker and Chief Deputy James E. Heller from the Department of Fire and Rescue Services.

Bobby said the Cub Scouts and his schools taught him the importance of the three words that saved his father's life.

The accident occurred on March 20 after Robert Thompson Sr., a mechanic, drained 10 gallons of contaminated gasoline from a ++ car.

Mr. Thompson was standing over two buckets of fuel when they suddenly erupted in flames.

"The flames just went up in my face and lit me up like a match. I moved around and couldn't get my shirt over my head," said Mr. Thompson, who is still wearing pressure bandages. The polyester-blend T-shirt began to stick to his skin as it burned.

Bobby and his mother, Ann, who were in the house, heard Mr. Thompson yelling and ran to the garage.

"When we opened the door there was smoke all over. It was so much it just about blew me down," Bobby said. "My dad looked like one of those stunt men on fire. My mom started screaming. It just popped into my head 'just roll.' I yelled 'Dad, get down and roll!' " he said.

"When I rolled, my pants were extinguished. Then I took the fire extinguisher and put the fire in the buckets out," said Mr. Thompson, who sustained second- and third-degree burns over 25 percent of his body.

Bobby followed the family's fire evacuation plan and took his three-year-old nephew to a neighbor's house while his mother telephoned 911.

He said his family's fire drills helped him keep a cool head.

"My parents tell me this stuff all the time: 'If there's ever a fire, run next door,' " he said. "It was pretty scary, though. Seeing your dad on fire is the scariest thing you can see. I'm just real glad to have him still around."

The Thompsons are very proud of their son, whom Mrs. Thompson describes as "very sensible."

"When he said to stop, drop and roll, it was like, that's what you do. We credit that for saving his father's life, really," she said.

"I'm very lucky," Mr. Thompson said. "Bobby was really thinking clearly."

The next week, Bobby again responded quickly in another accident, his mother said. A friend, Jason Hipp, was swinging on a rope over a creek when he fell into the cold water and injured himself. Bobby and a friend pulled Jason from the water and Bobby ran to call 911.

"We didn't know if he had broken his neck or what," Bobby said. Jason suffered minor injuries.

"We're very proud of him. It was quick thinking. We're grateful to the school systems and the fire department and the Boy Scouts. The safety procedures are just instilled in the kids that that's what to do. It's an automatic response," Mrs. Thompson said.

"He always seems to know the right thing to do," she said. "The kids know more than you think they do."

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