It’s never too early to be a hero

Published 1:06 am Saturday, January 14, 2012

Evan Woolard, 4, “takes a ride” with Lt. Doug Bissette in a American LaFrance 1912 fire engine, the first motorized engine used by the Washington Fire Department, on his tour of Washington Fire Station 1 on Friday. (WDN Photo/Vail Stewart Rumley)

Evan Woolard has red hair and a charming smile. At 4 years old, he doesn’t particularly like loud noises, but he loves being shown where places he knows are located on a map.
At the Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS headquarters station Friday, Evan mapped out the route that fire engines took from the Bunyan and Pinetown volunteer fire departments to the home of his godparents, Phil and Stacy Lee.
The night of Dec. 28, 2011, Evan and his parents, Eric and Missy Woolard, were visiting the Lee residence on N.C. Highway 32, near Douglas Crossroads.
“We have a little chiminea out back, and Phil had started a fire for Evan in it. It was Evan’s fire,” said Stacy Lee. “Evan went out to check his fire.”
Lee then encouraged Evan to share his story.
“I came inside and said ‘Papa (Evan’s name for Phil Lee) … we’ve got a big fire,’” said Evan. “I told him to call 911.”
“Why?” asked Lt. Doug Bissette with Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS, prompting the young boy.
“So you guys could come!” Evan exclaimed.
The fire was sparked by a woodstove in the Lee’s barn, and, if not for Evan’s quick thinking, it could have spread rapidly.
“When Evan came back in, we knew by the tone of his voice, by his expression — my husband grabbed his jacket and ran outside,” said Stacy Lee.
The call went out. Though the barn was a complete loss, burning to the ground, response from the Bunyan and Pinetown fire departments was immediate.
“They were there in no time,” said Lee.
As reward for Evan’s heroics, Bissette treated Evan to a personalized tour of Washington Fire Station 1 at the corner of West Fifth and North Market streets. Evan “steered” fire engines, slid (part-way) down the fireman’s pole, played an “invisible” game of tic-tac-toe with the infrared heat sensor camera, in which he and his opponent viewed their game through the lens, their “moves” leaving pink streaks across a wall, but invisible to the naked eye.
Lee credits the teachers at First United Methodist Church’s preschool, where Evan has attended for several years, with imparting to their charges the proper response to a fire. Each year, the preschool classes visit the fire station and learn, via a puppet show, what steps should be taken — in this case, alert an adult. Call 911.
As Evan has proven, it’s never too early for children to learn.