8-year-old saves family in Parkdale fire

Quick-thinking Julisa Ramirez, 8, saved her family from tragedy Sunday in the first house fire in Parkdale in more than five years.

The 6 a.m. fire destroyed the single-wide mobile home located at 5426 McIntosh Dr., south of Parkdale.

“She saved all four of us,” said her mother, Shawna McLean. “If it wasn’t for her, we probably would have died in our sleep. She completely took over and got everyone out. I am so proud of her.”

Julisa will receive the department’s first-ever Hero’s Certificate in an assembly at Parkdale Elementary School, where Julisa attends, at 1:45 p.m. Friday.

Falling snow and blowing wind complicated fighting the fire, according to Parkdale Fire Chief Mike McCafferty.

The structure, valued at $60,000, and all contents were lost. When firefighters arrived, the home was engulfed in flames.

But Julisa and her family got out safely, thanks to the second-grader’s actions, according to McCafferty.

“She is a very bright kid,” he said.

“She did exactly what she had been taught to do in case of a fire, and acted very quickly,” continued McCafferty, who will present the award.

McCafferty said Julisa was the first to hear the fire, and she immediately woke her mother.

She smelled smoke and started screaming, ‘Mom, we need to get out, call 911,’ said McCafferty. “She then told her mom, ‘we need to go to our safe spot’.” That safe spot was the family car, which was out of harm’s way.

McLean, Jose Manuel Rivera and their 1-year-old daughter, Nayeli Rivera-McLean, immediately left the house with Julisa.

“We push the safe place idea, and it’s the first thing she told me when I talked to her,” McCafferty said. “I asked her how she knew about it and she said, ‘from you at the school’.” That made me feel pretty good. Then she asked, ‘Did you find my brown teddy bear?’ but I had to tell her it was lost.

“They didn’t have much time to get out,” McCafferty said, noting that there were no injuries to the family or to firefighters.

Parkdale and Wy’East fire district members and Hood River medics responded. The home is owned by Brian Gray.

McCafferty said the apparent cause of the fire was a short in the motor operating a forced air heating unit. He said there were no smoke alarms in the home, The fire also damaged the side of a neighbor’s SUV parked next the house.

McCafferty said, “The wind was blowing air on the fire, and it was ripping.”

McIntosh is the steepest road in the district, he said, and while the response vehicles had no trouble getting up, despite an inch or more of snow, the county took the unusual step of sanding the road so the firefighters could make it safely down, as none of the vehicles were chained.

McCafferty noted that Julisa had learned what she had practiced at school, and the family was right to have a safety plan in place, but added that all that was missing were the smoke detectors.

“We urge people to install them and make sure they are working properly,” he said.


American Red Cross is assisting the family, along with friends and the Parkdale School community.

An account in Shawna McLean’s name has been set up at CenterPointe Bank, and donation barrels for clothes, linens and other needs are in local businesses and at the school. A Facebook page in McLean’s name has also been set up.

The Red Cross paid for the family’s first three nights in a motel, but the family is seeking an extension while looking for a new home.

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners