First-grader saves family in fire

Awakened by noises, 6-year-old Reese Anderson went to sleep with her parents when house erupted
Reese Anderson, 6, woke her parents in the middle of the night to tell them their house was on fire. Leah and Chris Andersonís Crowfoot Road house burned to the ground, but no one was injured.Bob Pennell

EAGLE POINT — Though she recently had heard a tale about an ox that preferred green fire trucks to red, 6-year-old Reese Anderson and her family were more than thrilled to see the various-colored engines that responded Oct. 4 to a fire on their Crowfoot Road property.

Chris Anderson, an Oregon National Guard member and his wife, Leah, say their daughter saved her family and five pets during the fire that had engulfed much of the home and was scorching the surrounding forest before smoke detectors ever went off.

How to help

The Anderson family moved into a furnished rental house last week and are working with their insurance company to rebuild their home.

With clothing and household items provided by friends and community members after the fire, they could use help with funds for the purchase of food, pet supplies and fuel for their vehicles. Donations can be made at any U.S. Bank in care of the Anderson family, account number 153665686363.

Reese and her parents escaped their burning home just minutes after midnight thanks to the first-grader, who woke up after hearing faint noises beneath her upstairs bedroom window.

In spite of a timely response by firefighers from the Oregon Department of Forestry, the Butte Falls Fire Department and Jackson County Fire District No. 4, the fire destroyed the family's two-story home and charred a quarter-acre of surrounding forestland.

Reese remembers being in her bedroom at the opposite end of a hallway from her parents' room when she heard sounds outside and decided, as any self-respecting 6-year-old would do, to head down the hallway to sleep with her parents.

Before she could snuggle into bed between her parents, the sounds became disconcerting.

"I heard a boom-smash and knew I had to say, 'Mom, wake up!' Then mom woke up and I heard the boom-smash and I heard another boom-smash-slam-crash. So then we woke up daddy," said the girl.

"I saw the fire came, and it was in the windows. Then it got really bright and we heard boom, then flash and crash so we had to go downstairs and get outside."

She adds in a somber tone, "Our whole house is all gone."

Leah Anderson said her daughter saved the family, their two dogs and three cats.

"Her waking up is why we got out of the house. She came in and said, 'I heard a boom. Can I get in bed with you?' " said the mom.

"I sent her to use the bathroom, and when she came back from the bathroom we noticed there was a light in her room that went from kind of light to really bright. We ran down the hall and saw flames shooting up the side of the house and into the eaves. It was pretty scary."

With their home, which contained Chris Anderson's home office for his boat-building business, a total loss, the family stayed with friends as they worked with their insurance company to begin the process of rebuilding.

Neighbors and family members pitched in to provide clothing, toiletries and even dog food immediately after the fire. Providing a small ray of hope was the fact that Anderson's boat-building shop survived the fire, which was caused by an exterior electrical outlet that shorted out.

The family secured a furnished rental house three miles from their property this week and are close to getting back to a routine.

His one conclusion about the fire, Chris Anderson noted, "I definitely agree that fire alarms don't go off fast enough."

Of his 6-year-old's aid in saving the family, he added, "I think I'm gonna take her to Disneyland."

Reese is slowly getting back to normal, her parents said, and the first-grader's focus has returned to her pet dogs and cats, and riding the bus home from school.

"I didn't learn about fires in school, but only one time we did read a story about an ox that hates red, and they all painted the fire trucks green so he could lead him away," she said.

"I don't remember what color the fire trucks all were, but I don't think they were green."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. Email her at

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