First published in the April 8 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
South Pasadena officials honored 13-year-old Evan Morales Tuesday for his actions during a fire in his multi-family complex on Huntington Drive.
On Feb. 13 — which was Super Bowl Sunday — at around 11 p.m., Evan saw a fire in his complex, Fire Chief Paul Riddle said.
Evan was initially honored during a City Council meeting on March 22. However, he could not attend.
“He noticed the fire and immediately did exactly what we ask our residents to do,” and that’s to notify his immediate family and call 911 immediately, Riddle said at the council meeting.
“Which is stressful,” he added. “It’s stressful when you see a fire in your multi-family dwelling.”
He said fires in apartment buildings with common hallways can be a significant concern for firefighters because there are so many units that can be impacted.
“If we don’t get on those very quickly, they can be very dangerous to the occupants,” Riddle said.
He said the key to the fast response was that Evan remained calm and gave dispatchers all the information for the fire department to respond immediately.
Firefighters were on the scene within three minutes, had water on the fire within four minutes and had a primary search and evacuation basically within five minutes, he said.
The San Marino Fire Department also assisted in extinguishing the fire.
Riddle said during the council meeting that he asked Evan why he was up at 11 p.m.
“He said, ‘I was doing homework, sir,’” Riddle said, after which Mayor Michael Cacciotti chuckled.
Evan was officially honored on this past Tuesday at the fire station in South Pasadena. After his recognition on that day, Evan said on the night of the fire he had just brushed his teeth and gone to bed.
“I see the glare on the blinds. I look to the left and I thought it was streetlights,” he said, so he went back to bed. But then, he thought, “That’s not right.”
So, he took a second look, and he saw a fire in an apartment in his complex across the way.
He told his father, James, about the blaze. His father started evacuating the building, and he told Evan to call 911.
He said he didn’t know why he stayed so calm during the 911 call. “I never really panic that much,” he said. “I got nervous, of course, but I didn’t panic.”
During the ceremony Tuesday, Riddle said, “For those of you who have had to call 911 during an actual emergency, it’s not as easy as it sounds. If you’ve had to do it, you know there’s a lot going on, a lot of information that the dispatcher is asking for in a very short amount of time, and the quicker … the dispatcher can get that information, the quicker they can dispatch us out.”
The fire stayed in one unit in the complex, Evan said, but smoke spread into a unit above, with a female occupant. “She would have died if I hadn’t called 911,” he said.
After the recognition ceremony at the fire station, Evan’s mother, Leslie, said her son has always been calm and independent. She has been dealing with medical issues for several years and her son has always set an alarm and gotten to school on his own.
Evan said he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up, and during the recognition ceremony, he and his parents had their picture taken with the firefighters attending the event.