Boy saves family from fire

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Heroes come in all sizes; a fact proven Sunday when 9-year-old Zachary Sykes alerted his family, saving them from perishing in a fire that burned their $240,000 Desert Road home to the ground.

Captain Jim Judkins of the Suffolk Fire Department said the child is &uot;a real little trooper&uot; He also noted the boy acted in a most intelligent and responsible manner in spite of the fear he experienced.


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&uot;Zachary was visibly shaken from the incident when we arrived on the scene, but towards the end of the event he was coming around,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;He was the encourager, bravely telling his parents they could rebuild their home.&uot;

The home and $30,000 in contents were destroyed when the fire broke out around 5:21 a.m., Sunday, April 13.

The two-story structure, three-bay detached garage, and an SUV and two pickup trucks were insured.

Zachary said that although he’s been taught the &uot;stop, drop and roll&uot; procedure taught by firefighters visiting First Baptist Christian School, he forgot everything except the fear.

When smoke filled the Desert Road home Zachary woke up when he heard what he thought was his alarm clock sounding off.

&uot;I never set my clock but I set it that night because we planned to go to church,&uot; said the little boy. &uot;I realized that it was the smoke alarm then ran out into the hallway yelling for my mother and dad. Then, my dad must have gotten up because I heard him downstairs yelling, &uot;Get out,’ and I was really scared. I didn’t know where my mother was or how I was going to get us out.&uot;

Zachary said although he could hear his mother’s voice, he couldn’t see her because the smoke was so thick. He felt his way to the rail along the stairwell, heading down the stairs to find his dad.

&uot;I was so confused about all of it and I ran back up the steps to my mother and she put her hand over my nose and mouth to keep from breathing the smoke,&uot; Zachary added. &uot;I was still very scared even though mother was with me. I don’t remember anything after that except getting out the front door.&uot;

Zachary said that once he was out, his mother told him to go next door to call 911. She tried to call on the cordless phone but thought the phone had failed. Unaware that she was connected to Suffolk’s Emergency Communications, she dropped the phone on the floor.

Meanwhile, 911 dispatchers listened to the sounds of the fire and the people at the scene. Help was immediately dispatched in the form of police, fire, and rescue personnel and Community Electric Cooperative.

&uot;I ran next door to Mr. Wagner’s house and started pounding on his door,&uot; said Zachary. &uot;It was only about 5:30 in the morning and he thought someone had fallen down the steps inside his house when he heard me banging on the front door. When I told him our house was on fire, he called 911 and asked if I was alright.&uot;

Zachary added that he could hear his mother calling out from back inside the burning house. She was also trying to rescue &uot;Honorable Samson of Suffolk,&uot; the registered Doberman that was the family’s pet for 13 years.

&uot;We had another puppy that we’d found the same day as the fire,&uot; said Zachary. &uot;We couldn’t get Samson out and he died in the fire but we were able to save the puppy. We are still trying to figure out a name for him.&uot;


Zachary also noted that his dad, W.C. Sykes, was treated at the Obici Hospital emergency for smoke inhalation and burns to his hands. He was burned as he crawled around the burning house attempting to locate Samson.

&uot;When Samson died, Zachary said he’d gone to heaven to be with Jade, our Doberman we lost a few years ago,&uot; said Karen Sykes. &uot;He is saddened at losing Samson because he has never been without the dog. He even said it was strange how the puppy came to us the same day the fire killed Samson.&uot;

Zachary’s mom said he does not realize how brave his actions were. She added that the third-grader walked 300 feet in the dark and climbed a fence to reach the Wagoner home where he called for help.

&uot;He really didn’t want to go, and he was afraid to leave me, but he did exactly as he was told,&uot; said Karen. &uot;When Zach remembered his wallet was in my truck, he got it and said at least we had some money.&uot;

It was Zachary intention to treat his parents to breakfast, but first they had to pick his dad up from the emergency room.

&uot;When we arrived and found they wanted to keep his dad for 24 hours, Zach heard me ask my mom (Kathleen Starling) if she could find some coffee for me,&uot; said Karen Sykes. &uot;Like a grown-up son, Zach pulled out his wallet to give his grandma money… I was so proud I was about to burst. He wanted to buy my coffee.&uot;

Karen and W.C. Sykes said they have always known Zachary was special, but they now have an even greater appreciation of the person he’s destined to become.

&uot;In these difficult days since the fire he has tried so hard not to complain even though he lost every possession in the fire, and that house is the only home he has ever known,&uot; said Sykes. &uot;Zachary means &uot;Jehovah hath remembered,’ the name we chose because Zach is a special gift to us from God. As I’ve told Zach many, many times, God showed me special favor when He sent him to our family.&uot;

Sykes said the family will live with their adult daughter, Lauren Jones, until they rebuild their home and lives.

Zachary is the grandson of Walter C. and Rosa Lee Sykes of Portsmouth and Kathleen Starling of Pruden Boulevard. Naturally, they are all extremely proud of their grandson, and Grandma Starling is grateful to the child for saving her entire family.