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Eli Haley reads an essay about the fire that destroyed his home in Trinity. Eli found the fire in his bedroom and alerted his family. They all escaped safely. Eli received a hero's medal from the Trinity Fire and Rescue Department in his class at West Morgan Elementary School on Monday.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Eli Haley reads an essay about the fire that destroyed his home in Trinity. Eli found the fire in his bedroom and alerted his family. They all escaped safely. Eli received a hero's medal from the Trinity Fire and Rescue Department in his class at West Morgan Elementary School on Monday.

West Morgan student honored for bravery
during house fire

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

Eli Haley was supposed to be in bed.

His mom had gotten on to him a couple of times. But this was one night when not listening to mom was for the best.

At about 9:30 on Dec. 19, 7-year-old Eli smelled smoke and then saw fire behind his television. Not wasting time to put the fire out, he ran to get his parents.

Eli's quick thinking saved his mom; dad; older sister, Abigail; and dog, Trixie, who all escaped their burning home on Old Alabama 24 in Trinity.

West Morgan Elementary School and Trinity Volunteer Fire Department officials held a ceremony Monday at the school, where Fire Chief Bill Pettey and Steve Caudle, a volunteer firefighter and Trinity Baptist Church minister, presented Eli with a medal in recognition of his bravery.

Eli said he had been excited about Christmas and couldn't sleep. His mom, Elizabeth Haley, said he probably wouldn't have noticed the fire until it was too late if he'd been asleep.

Eli met his father, Danny Haley, in the hallway. He went to get his mom in the kitchen and Abigail out of bed, and all quickly exited.

Mom said her husband tried to go back in to see if he could save anything, but the flames and heat were too strong.

"It was a complete loss," she said.

Danny Haley said he thought they protected their electronics with a surge protector, but apparently it was a cheap power strip that became overloaded.

"Always buy a high-priced surge protector that you don't doubt will work," Danny Haley said.

He credited Abigail's fire safety lessons at school for saving their lives. He said the family had practiced their fire drill because of those lessons.

"He (Eli) knew exactly what to do," Danny Haley said.

The family struggled in the fire's aftermath. Elizabeth Haley said the Trinity community "responded wonderfully" with aid since all they had left were the clothes they were wearing. They moved into a mobile home at Danny Haley's parents' home.

With Christmas presents destroyed, his parents tried to put some semblance of a holiday together.

Elizabeth Haley, a human resources professional for a government contractor in Huntsville, said the children struggled emotionally with the loss. In the following weeks, Eli wouldn't talk about the fire. She said he had some guilt over the fire starting behind his television.

His second-grade teacher, Cindy Cunningham, got Eli to write about his experience to help him deal with the fire. His mom and dad also took the children to look at where their dad, a homebuilder, plans to build their new home on their 4-acre lot.

Now the excitement over the new home is replacing the emotion of the loss.

"My old room used to be a laundry room," Eli said. "My new room is much bigger."

Burnt house

West Morgan Elementary second-grader Eli Haley wrote the following story about his house burning on Dec. 19:

"My house burnt before Christmas. I don't know how it happened. It was scary. It was a small fire, but it became bigger and bigger.

"I found the fire. It was big. It was hot in my room. It was behind my TV.

"It was so sad that night my dog ran out.

"The fire truck went right by the house and my daddy tried to get him to come back.

"The fire truck backed up the road and they ran in the house to put it out.

"My sister was asleep and I opened her door and she got up and went outside and Trixie (his dog) followed her. My mom and dad and sister and my dog got out safe."

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