Unsung Hero: He saved his ‘Memaw’ from a kitchen fire

Both photos courtesy of Erin Addington

This is Unsung Heroes, a Bryan on Scouting blog series celebrating under-reported acts of Scouting heroism. These are stories that don’t make national headlines — but should. That’s doubly true in this world that can always use more good news. Read the latest story below, and find instructions for sharing your own Unsung Heroes story at the end of the post.

Gage Theriault and his grandmother, whom he calls Memaw, have been best friends since the day Gage was born.

On May 20, 2018, Gage, then 10 years old, was spending a relaxing Sunday at Memaw’s house. They were baking a frozen pizza when Gage noticed smoke coming from the kitchen. To his shock, the entire oven was on fire.

Gage acted quickly, using fire safety lessons he learned in Scouting that equipped him to “just run on auto,” he says. He turned off the oven and kept the oven door closed, hoping those steps would suffocate the flames.

Next, he was determined to get himself and Memaw safely out of the house. To further complicate the situation, Memaw, then 73, uses a wheelchair and requires a constant supply of supplemental oxygen. Gage was understandably concerned that an oxygen tank near an open flame could cause a disaster, and he knew the smoke would be harmful to Memaw, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

Gage quickly helped Memaw out of the house. Once outside, he called 911.

Even though Gage received a Real Heroes Award from the American Red Cross and is being considered for a BSA Lifesaving & Meritorious Action award, he doesn’t see his actions as anything out of the ordinary.

“I would help anyone that needed it,” Gage says. “It’s extra special when it’s someone you love.”

Left: Gage in his Scout uniform. Right: Gage and his Memaw celebrate her birthday. (Both photos courtesy of Erin Addington)

Learned in Scouting

Today, Gage is 12 years old and a Star Scout in Troop 177 of Washburn, Maine, part of the BSA’s Katahdin Area Council.

In an interview with Bryan on Scouting, he says that “Scouting instilled in me to always Be Prepared. I’m thankful for the many lessons in fire safety and emergency preparedness.”

Gage says he feels this country needs Scouting now more than ever — and not just because it helps young people respond to emergencies in a calm way.

“Being a member of a troop gives you a sense of belonging and offers a safe and supportive place to learn new things and build character,” he says.

A few words from Mom

Erin Addington, Gage’s mom, wasn’t aware of what had happened until she pulled into Memaw’s driveway and saw the flashing lights of fire engines.

“Gage was standing beside Memaw helping her with her rescue inhalers,” Addington says.

After learning what her son had done, Addington felt “incredibly proud” and “very grateful for his actions.”

“Even before this incident, I have always known that Gage being in Scouts was a great decision,” she says. “Scouting has helped Gage become a more confident person and taught him many very valuable skills at a young age.”

Helpful resources

The BSA is committed to helping young people enjoy Scouting — and life — safely. Review the BSA’s Safety Moments, which cover a range of real-world scenarios from Acute Mountain Sickness to zip-lines.

Share your Unsung Heroes story

Stories like these brighten my day — especially because I know this kind of thing happens regularly in Scouting.

Here’s how to share the news of an Unsung Hero in your pack, troop or crew:

  • Send us an email with the subject line “Unsung Heroes.”
  • Include a detailed summary of the heroic act. If we choose to use the story, we will reach out to interview the young hero.
  • Include any “supporting documentation” you can. Examples include links to a story in your local newspaper, paperwork for a Scouting heroism award nomination or eyewitness accounts.
  • Include high-res photos of the Unsung Hero.
About Bryan Wendell 3183 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.