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11-year-old saves family from possible Christmas tree fire

The San José Fire Department dubbed the girl an honorary firefighter after she led four family members to safety

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Anna Bauman
San Francisco Chronicle

SAN JOSE, Calif. — An 11-year-old San Jose girl saved her family when their Christmas tree apparently sparked a house fire early Thursday, officials said.

Three fire trucks responded to a house fire around 6:43 a.m. on the 800 block of 19th Street, where they learned of a remarkable rescue. Berlin Gomez Muniz was up early getting ready for school when she noticed thick smoke filtering into her bedroom and discovered a fire in the living room, officials said.

Thinking quick, Berlin led her 9-year-old sister out of the house and woke her parents and grandmother. All five family members — the two children and three adults — safely exited the home through the back door.

“She’s definitely a hero,” said Reginald Williams, assistant fire chief. “Without her, their Christmas would’ve been much different.”

The family’s cat stayed inside and did not survive, officials said. The fire caused extensive damage to the home, which is now unable to be occupied.

Officials are investigating the cause of the fire, but they said it appears to have started in the living room and might have involved wiring near a Christmas tree.

Firefighters could not find any working smoke detectors in the home.

Williams advised people to replace smoke detector batteries and practice Christmas tree safety by keeping the plants watered and away from electrical appliances.

Berlin did all the right things, he said.

“We dubbed her an honorary San Jose firefighter,” Williams said.


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