FIVE-year-old Samarra McHale tried desperately to wake a teenager as toxic smoke from a fire started by her little brother threatened to overcome a Yeppoon household.
Her three-year-old brother, Tylar Bushell, had been playing with a lighter near some shoes and accidentally started the fire about 10am yesterday.
As Samarra woke to the sound of the fire alarm, she tried to call triple 0, but misdialled the number by putting a 1 at the end.
When that didn't work, she managed to wake Michael Clark, 17, by jumping on him as he slept on the couch.
Michael was able to put the fire out before it caused extensive damage to the Tanby Road house, but all of the children had to be treated in Yeppoon Hospital for the effects of smoke inhalation.
After yesterday's terrifying ordeal, mum Sarah McHale said she left the house for only five minutes to go to the shop and returned to find her children on the lawn and a house full of smoke.
She said she was proud of her daughter's quick thinking, and fire officers yesterday hailed Samarra a “little hero” for her actions.
“She woke up and went to ring triple 0 straight away,” Sarah said.
“She tried, and she knew what to do.”
Michael yesterday said he didn't know why he couldn't wake up, but his first reaction was to get the children out of the house and put out the fire, which had started from a shoe on the television unit.
“I grabbed Johnny (Sarah's 18-month-old baby) and had Samarra over one shoulder and Tylar over the other and got out of there,” he said.
Smoke damage on the blackened walls and ceilings, the shoe (pictured) – which used to be a knee-high boot – and a burnt TV cabinet are reminders of a day that could have been so much worse for the young family.
Station Officer Wayne Parry from the Yeppoon Fire and Rescue Service yesterday said it was a very near miss, as Michael had been affected by the chemical-laden smoke, which was why he didn't wake up initially.
“He would have been in the first stages of overcoming gases,” Mr Parry said.
“But if he didn't wake up we might have had a triple fatality.”
The children were discharged from Yeppoon Hospital after treatment for smoke inhalation.
Mr Parry said the chemical-filled smoke from items such as the shoe caused “quite substantial” damage to the home.
“The fire was in the front of the house and the wind was blowing from the front to the back, so the smoke filled the house and didn't get a chance to escape,” he said.
Mr Parry hailed Samarra a little hero and said it was also lucky that her mother had called the fire service, as the children could have had an adverse reaction to the chemicals in the smoke.
“The mother has taken the initiative to call us, even though the fire was out, but the fire wasn't our issue, it was the welfare of people in the house,” he said.
“It comes down to the fact that you really have to call 000 for any fire, even if it is out.”
He also said this showed the importance of keeping lighters and matches up high where children could not get hold of them.
“And teach children fire safety, and have an evacuation plan and a working smoke detector,” he said.
Police are investigating the fire, but are treating the episode as non-suspicious.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.