Two Young VW Heroes Honored for Saving Lives

Posted On: Thursday, January 27, 2022

Chief King presented awards, tee shirts, and smoke alarms to Braxton Kouts (left) and Hunter Tinsley (right) on Monday.

Chief King presented awards, tee shirts, and smoke alarms to Braxton Kouts (left) and Hunter Tinsley (right) on Monday. (DHI Media/Robin Pennell)


A few short weeks ago, on the night of Jan. 5, 2022, two hometown heroes saved their family of seven adults and children from a devastating house fire. Just before 11 p.m., Braxton Kouts, a 14-year-old 8th grader, saw and smelled smoke coming from the attic access door in his second-floor bedroom.

Then Kouts’ younger 6th-grade cousin, Hunter Tinsley, entered his room, and together they heard a crackling sound in the walls. Braxton opened the attic door and discovered a fire raging in the attic. Without delay, they raced to awaken the other five members of the household to get them safely out of the house. Then they knocked on the door of their adjoining duplex neighbor, awaking her and bringing her outside to safety.

Larry Kouts, the grandfather, remembered, “I wasn’t scared. I was just making sure everybody was out. I was more shocked than anything.” Earlier that night, they had some warning signs but, like many of us, they thought it was just a strange happening. However, they didn’t know what to do with the strange signs. “We had at least at least four hours, if not five hours, where the breaker kept throwing and we’d had trouble with it before.” All signs of the aftermath seem to point to a problem with the wiring on that breaker.

Mrs. Kouts had a difficult time that night beyond the obvious shock of the fire. She is on oxygen at home and has a portable oxygen concentrator she uses when in public. The extreme cold outside made breathing difficult. “I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “My little girl, she grabbed my portable tanks because I had it right there coming down the stairs. She got on her coat and shoes and [got the] tanks and she was right out the door. She knew it. She said ‘Gotta get them out!’ They explode so…” The little girl is only eight years old. Mrs. Kouts said, “Actually, these kids acted normal. They used common sense.”

Braxton Kouts recalled going through the fire safety trailer in third grade and remembered the lessons that he learned about fire safety. Chief King credits the fire training the third-grade students receive to Braxton’s handling of the fire that night, as well as the quick, calm thinking of the two young men. They remember the training, Kind said, because “That’s a big thing. People smoke up the trailer and the kids go [through it]. The kids think it’s fun! Plus they get out of school for an hour…”

Tinsley was living in Lima during the third grade and only recently relocated to Van Wert to live with his grandparents and cousins. He did not go through anything like a fire trailer that he can recall. Larry Kouts commented, “They ought to do that in every city.” Echoed King, “It’s definitely helped a couple of kids save some lives.”

Chief King honored the two young men saying, “Attic fires like to burn quick and they like to burn unattended for a while which gives us a little less time to do our job. Their quick action definitely found the fire in the first stages because by the time we arrived, it was mostly just smoke and a little bit of fire coming out of the eaves of the home. But more importantly, they alerted their grandparents downstairs and the three other residents, allowing them to get out of the house quickly so we didn’t have to run into any casualties or fatalities because of their quick actions. What you did was very courageous and definitely saved lives that night.”

King presented the two young men with a certificate “Guarding Our Every Neighbor Award”, fire department tee shirts, and two smoke detectors for their new residence (and help to install them). He reemphasized, “I can’t say enough about what these guys did that night. It sees minimal to some, and common sense to some people but they could have just ignored it by thinking ‘something smells hot’. You made our job a little easier that night.”

The Kouts’ are very grateful for the people at Van Wert Middle School who helped them out immediately after the fire, and the community outpouring with clothing and other needs while they waited at a nearby hotel to find another house to live in. They have moved into the house and say that they have need of nothing at this time thanks to our caring community.


Two middle school boys are recognized by Van Wert Fire for their quick thinking and actions that saved several people from a house fire A fireman applauds the two middle school boys for their heroism that saved several people from a house fire Two middle school boys pose with members of the Van Wert Fire Department Two middle school boys pose with members of the Van Wert Fire Department



Original article courtesy of Times Bulletin

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