An 11-year-old Boy Scout is being called a hero after he pulled a small boy out of a burning Dumpster Tuesday, more than likely saving his life.
"Another minute or two and he would have been dead," said Scoutmaster Gordon Abrams, father of Scout Clayton Abrams. "I don't know how the kid survived."
Salt Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Paul Jaroscak concurred that the young boy in the Dumpster is alive today thanks to Clayton's quick action.
"For this Scout to run over there ... reaching in and grabbing him and pulling him to safety with flames coming out ... it's heroic," he said.
The incident began just before 8 p.m. Tuesday at a church near 1400 East and 4000 South. The door to a supply closet was left open and a 7-year-old boy, who was at the church while his brother was attending a Scout meeting, wandered off and found some matches.
The young boy, who has a fascination with matches to the point that his parents won't keep any in their house, began lighting some matches and burned small holes in the carpet, Gordon Abrams said. An adult walked into the room and saw what was happening, prompting the boy to jump out a window, scale a chain-link fence and run off, he said.
Damage to the church was estimated at only $180, Jaroscak said.
The people who saw the boy assumed he had run home. A few minutes later during the Abrams' Scout meeting, however, the Scouts opened a window to let fresh air in the room and started smelling smoke from outside.
That's when Clayton noticed out of the corner of his eye that smoke was coming from the Dumpster in back of the building.
"I just said, 'The Dumpster's on fire, the Dumpster's on fire,"' Clayton said.
Clayton ran outside with a few other Scouts while his father ran down the hall to call 911. It was while the young Scouts were outside, about 12 feet away from the Dumpster, that Clayton heard something he was not expecting.
"I hear this, 'Help, help, help me, somebody help me.' I thought, 'This can't be good,"' he said. "It scared me."
At that moment, Clayton, who ironically had just been working on the first-aid portion of his merit badge, said the adrenaline kicked in and he ran to the Dumpster without hesitating.
Flames were shooting 3 feet from the top, and thick black smoke was billowing out. The Dumpster had two lids one was open and had fire shooting out, and the other was closed.
It was from the closed lid that Clayton heard faint cries for help. Despite flames coming out of the top and the fact that the metal Dumpster was very hot to the touch, Clayton said he lifted the lid with one hand and started to put his other hand inside.
"I reach in and something grabs my hand," he said. "He was red. He was screaming. It was really burning hot."
Partly from the adrenaline and partly because the child in the Dumpster was so small, Clayton was able to lift the boy out with one arm.
Clayton was not injured. Jaroscak said the 7-year-old boy suffered a first-degree burn on his arm but was otherwise unharmed. He did not suffer any smoke inhalation, he said.
Clayton credits his father for teaching him how to react to emergency situations and not be afraid. He noted that the Scouting program also taught him the danger of playing with matches. He said Wednesday he was just glad the young boy was OK."It felt good to save him. His brother is a really good friend of mine," he said. "I'm just glad he's not injured. It was really scary."
E-mail: [email protected]