12-Year-Old Leads Family to Safety During Fire

Arlington Fire Department awards child for quick, heroic actions

A 12-year-old Arlington boy went into "survival mode" and led his family to safety when a lightning strike sparked a fire at his house.

Steven Tarver was watching TV with his stepmother on a stormy night last week.

"There was this loud bang and I kind of jumped and [my stepmother] started laughing at me," he said.

"Yes, I was kind of laughing at him because I thought, well, we always get the storms, and he should be used to it," said Deana Tarver, Steven's stepmother.

Soon after the loud bang, they smelled smoke and saw smoke. Lightning had struck their house, sparking a fire in their garage.

Steven said he remembers thinking, "'I have to get everybody out. [Deana] needs to call the fire department. We need to get the dogs, and we need to get everybody out.' I just went into survival mode."

"It's not how a normal 12-year-old child would handle that, I wouldn't think," said his mother, Christine Tarver-Miller. "I'm so proud of him."

"I really didn't have time to panic," Steven said.

"He was the one that was super calm and started telling me to grab the dogs and, 'We've got to get out of the house,'" Tarver said.

Steven credits his calm to knowing what to do thanks to lessons from Arlington firefighters who came to his fourth-grade class years ago.

He saw the fire department at school again when firefighters awarded him with a life-saving certificate on Thursday.

"He was really interested in it when he learned it in elementary school," Tarver-Miller said. "They taught him CPR and different stuff. ... He points out the stairwells and says, 'Hey, if there's a fire, that's where we need to go.'"

Firefighters said they are also thrilled with Steven's quick actions.

"It's important to teach these lessons at an early age," Lt. Darrel Whitfield said. "When an emergency happens, there's not much time to think. You just have to react. If they're trained on it, they're familiar with it, and they do better in a true emergency situation."

"Because of his nerves and he was clearly thinking, it just helped me," Tarver said. "It could've been crazy -- a lot crazier."

"My son is amazing," Tarver-Miller said.

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