Sumter boy recognized for saving baby sister

bmarchant@theitem.comMay 30, 2013 

Anthony Lewis knew what to do when a pot of grease cooking on his mother’s stove caught fire. The 10-year-old boy collected his 6-month-old sister and took her to safety at a neighbor’s house, where he called 911.

For his quick thinking, Anthony was recognized by the Sumter Fire Department with a trophy and a plaque citing him for his bravery.

A short presentation ceremony took place Wednesday in the fire engine hangar at the main Sumter fire station on East Hampton Street, where Lewis received his award in front of a crowd of firefighters. The boy hero then received a tour of the station.

Lewis was at his home on Patriot Parkway on Jan. 21 where his mother, Tanisha Lewis, was cooking dinner when the grease fire started. An Air Force staff sergeant at Shaw Air Force Base, the mother suffered second- and third-degree burns, but was able to tell her elementary school-age son to get out of the house.

“I was scared at first,” Anthony Lewis said Wednesday. “Then she told me to get to the neighbor’s house.”

Carrying his baby sister in his arms, Lewis first went to one neighbor’s house and, when no one came to the door, went to another house and got the resident to call 911, then waited for firefighters to respond.

“They came and helped put it out,” Tanisha Lewis said as she watched her son get the award. In presenting the award, Chief Johnnie Rose with the Sumter County Fire Department said Anthony’s actions showcased the value of the department’s fire-prevention education efforts. Local firefighters regularly appear in schools and speak to church youth groups, teaching children how to respond to a fire, including instructing them to leave the house immediately and call emergency responders from the safety of a neighbor’s house. Tanisha Lewis said her son’s school, Cherryvale Elementary School, has had several fire prevention programs.

“We talk a lot about fire prevention, and we do a lot to get the information out there, and the kids are learning it, and they’re using it,” Rose said.

Rose said education efforts have led to a decline in child deaths from fires statewide as more children know how to respond. The department’s next goal is to reach the next most vulnerable segment of the population, senior citizens, with similar prevention education sessions.

Lewis might help with that effort when it comes time to display his new trophy.

“I might take it to my granny’s house, and put it on her fireplace,” he said.

The fire department also recognized several adults who have helped with its fire prevention efforts Wednesday. Bernard Montgomery, safety director with Black River Electric Cooperative, and Frank Carraway on behalf of Simpson’s Hardware helped supply the fire department with smoke detectors to provide to needy households, and Chris and Dottie Black with the South Carolina Safety Co. provided fire extinguishers to the department at a reduced cost.

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