Martinez Fire Department Battalion Chief Danny Kuhlmann examines a can of charcoal lighter fluid that had been stored in the utility room.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Michael Kriz had a fall-break story with plenty of flair to share with classmates when school resumed Thursday at Riverside Middle School.
"I saved a house," he said Wednesday, moments after firefighters credited Michael, 12, and his 13-year-old friend Mark Ramirez with saving Michael's home, at 304 Old Salem Way, from a fire.
The blaze started in an attached utility room Tuesday morning. The two boys were alone at Michael's home tossing the football in the back yard. When they went inside for a drink, they smelled smoke, heard a noise and went outside to investigate.
Michael and Mark said they saw flames coming out of the utility room's open door and from underneath a raised wooden deck next to it.
"It blew the door open, and all I saw was red," Michael said as he watched firefighters extinguish the blaze. "I got kind of scared because I thought (the house) was going to burn down."
Martinez Fire Department Battalion Chief Danny Kuhlmann said the fire was caused by several cans of paint and paint thinner being stored in the utility room too close to the gas water heater.
Firefighters say the fire could have been much worse had Michael and Mark had not grabbed a bottle of charcoal lighter fluid that was near the door and stuffed it under a metal tub at the other end of the yard. The boys also called Michael's mother, Sherry, who told them to call 911 immediately.
12-year-old Michael Kriz (left) and his friend Mark Ramirez, 13, watch firefighters battle a fire at the Kriz home. The boys noticed a fire in a utility room in back of Michael's house on Old Salem Road in Watervale and called 911.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"Their actions saved the house, no doubt," said Martinez firefighter Rhusha Mack. He added that if no one was home, the fire probably would have moved into the attic and destroyed most of the house by the time the fire was seen and reported.
As Michael's mom rushed home, Michael and Mark waited at the curb for firefighters to arrive.
The blaze was quickly extinguished, and the damage was isolated to the utility room, unlike a recent fire in Springlakes, where fire destroyed a home.
Kriz arrived home to find her son and Mark were safe. Kriz's 16-year-old daughter, Jessica, was not at home at the time. Kriz said she was proud of her son and Mark.
"He has always been my little man,'' Kriz said.
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