OREM — When the smoke detectors went off in his home Saturday afternoon, Garrek Lott did exactly what he’d been taught.
“I grabbed my baby sister,” the 12-year-old Boy Scout said. “Then I told everyone to get out.”
By then, a few neighbors had arrived after hearing the screeching detectors.
Garrek told one of them to call 911 — this was a real fire, he told them.
He could smell the smoke, but he still wasn’t sure where it was.
After making sure his sisters were safe outside, Garrek headed back into the house and shut off the breaker boxes, this time telling the adults they needed to get out and wait for fire crews.
Minutes later when parents Tim and Jalene Lott returned from their quick trip to the storage unit, the fire in the basement had reached a shelf of paints — and its flash point.
The flames exploded out the back windows, scorching the rear of the house and eating the support beams for the upper living room floor.
Jalene Lott said her first thought was of her nearly 2-year-old baby girl, sleeping in her crib.
But Garrek had already grabbed her, and she was waiting outside in the arms of her other siblings.
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“When it comes to taking care of his sisters, he’s pretty protective,” Jalene Lott said of Garrek. “He’s just a good boy.”
Garrek, the second oldest and only boy in a family of five sisters, doesn’t see himself as a hero.
He’s just a sixth-grader who wants to move onto junior high, loves to play basketball and treasures a BYU football signed by the team.
He rescued it from his room Monday, and although his sisters said it smelled like smoke, he was just glad to still have it.
Although house fires are always damaging, this one had “the worst timing,” Jalene Lott said.
On Friday, the family had finished a 2 ½-month remodeling project that was ready for the inspector Monday morning.
And the new basement is exactly where the fire started.
Fire officials believe it was an electrical fire caused by an old freezer and a fridge that were both plugged into an inadequate extension cord, which overheated, said Orem Police Lt. Doug Edwards.
Now, the new basement is soggy and sooty, the living room floor is sagging due to missing support beams and the entire house smells like an overactive campfire.
Edwards said the damage estimate is around $200,000, but he praised Garrek for his quick and cool thinking that kept everyone safe.
Although it will be six months and a house full of new wall board before the family can move back in, Jalene Lott is still optimistic.
“It could have been a lot worse,” she said, looking at the melted siding on the back of her house. “I’m just grateful that no one was hurt. The outpouring of love and support has just been overwhelming.”
Neighbors, friends, family members and Tim Lott’s company have all stepped up to offer support, food and places to stay, Jalene Lott said.
The family wants to rent a place near their home in the area of 920 North and 600 West, so the kids can stay in school.
Although Garrek misses his house, the fire has taught him more about himself and the importance of his scouting lessons.
“I was a lot calmer than I thought I’d be,” the First-Class-almost-a-Star Scout said. “Let’s hope I get the fireman’s merit badge.”
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