Public Safety

Four Cedar Rapids children recognized by fire department for quick thinking in the face of danger

Lucy Chrystal, 10, Riley Chrrystal, 14, Jace Fortmann, 13, and Miles Chrystal, 8, sit on a truck’s bumper for a family photo after receiving an award at the Cedar Rapids Fire Department Central Fire Station on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Riley and Lucy helped wake and evacuate their family when their home caught on fire earlier this month. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Lucy Chrystal, 10, Riley Chrrystal, 14, Jace Fortmann, 13, and Miles Chrystal, 8, sit on a truck’s bumper for a family photo after receiving an award at the Cedar Rapids Fire Department Central Fire Station on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Riley and Lucy helped wake and evacuate their family when their home caught on fire earlier this month. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Four Cedar Rapids children were recognized by the Cedar Rapids Fire Department for their quick thinking when a fire broke out at their home earlier this month.

During a visit to the fire department’s Central Station, Riley Chrystal, 14; Lucy Chrystal, 10, Miles Chrystal, 8 and Alyvia Fortmann, 6; were presented the bravery award.

Lucy said that a little before 2 a.m. on April 2, she and the other children were asleep on the bottom floor of their split level home at 3208 Pebble Drive SW when a noise woke her up.

“I thought it was Riley’s alarm, so I went into her room and told her to turn it off,” Lucy said, not realizing at first the noise was a smoke alarm. “When I went upstairs, I saw flames coming out of the bathroom.”

Lucy said she was scared, but quickly remembered the fire drills she had done at school. She went back downstairs and started yelling and clapping.

“That’s how Riley wakes everyone up when it’s time for school,” she said.

Riley said she was half asleep and a little confused when Lucy woke them up. She thought Lucy was lying, but then went upstairs and smelled smoke.

“Oh yup, that’s real,” Riley said. “I’m not dreaming.”

Lucy and Miles got out of the house first and Riley took Alyvia by the hand behind them. But, as they got to the front door, Alyvia got scared and ran back into the house, Riley said. She fled to the basement and huddled in a corner. Riley ran back into the home and got Alyvia out.

By that time, Lucy was on the phone with 911 and firefighters were on their way. Crews arrived around 1:53 a.m. and found heavy smoke and heat inside, said Cedar Rapids public safety spokesman Greg Buelow. Investigators believe the fire started in the upstairs bathroom ventilation fan.

As all of this was unfolding, Alyvia’s father — and the other children’s legal guardian — Ken Fortmann was at work at Whirlpool in Amana when text messages and phone calls started coming in about the fire. He left work and quickly made his way to Cedar Rapids. Fortmann said he found the children in an ambulance, hugged them and confirmed everyone was all right.

“I was just relieved that they were fine,” Fortmann said.

Cedar Rapids Fire Department Battalion Chief Brent Smith said the children’s actions — hearing a smoke alarm and having an escape plan — are a reason no one was hurt in the fire.

On April 19, the children were invited to the Central Station for a tour and to be presented their bravery certificates. Nicky Stansell, public education manager for the fire department, said the bravery awards have been given out “just a handful of times.”

“They did exactly what they were supposed to do,” Stansell said. “They heard it and they got up and they got out.”

Buelow said there have been 48 residential fires in Cedar Rapids from Jan. 1 to April 15, 2018. Of those, smoke alarms were present in 22 of the fires, but only functioned in 15 of the fires. The main reason for non-functioning smoke alarms were dead or missing batteries, he said.

Fortmann said when he was growing up, his parents always changed the batteries in smoke alarms and he’s followed suit since then.

“It definitely pays off,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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